Value-added trade and its role in transforming Africa from a "source of raw materials" into a key player in the global economy will be high on the agenda at the first BRICS Business Council meeting starting in Johannesburg on Tuesday, says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies.
Briefing reporters on Monday ahead of the two-day council meeting, Davies said that investment and the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank would also be up for discussion.
'We need to add value to our products'
"We need to add value to our mineral products [and] our agricultural products," Davies said. "We need to promote a much more value-added economy. We need to do this by integrating our continent [Africa]. We need to consolidate this by a massive infrastructure development programme on the continent."
The trade ministers of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of countries have been meeting over the years to discuss ways of promoting cooperation in trade and investment.
"One of the important conclusions that we came to is that we are all industrialising economies, a group of dynamic, emerging economies," Davies said. "As such, we need to promote a pattern of interaction in the area of trade, which supports value-added production in each of our economies."
BRICS trade ministers have embarked on a study on how to promote value-added products and strengthen investment relations.
Davies said that Africa, which was the next growth frontier, needed to set out on a different trajectory over next few years if it was "to consolidate that growth into real development". The continent needed to industrialise, he said.
BRICS Development Bank
At the conclusion of the fifth BRICS summit in Durban in March, the BRICS leaders agreed to the establishment of a BRICS Development Bank to help finance infrastructure programmes and sustainable development in BRICS and other developing countries.
President Jacob Zuma said at the time that the initial capital contribution to the bank "should be substantial and sufficient for the bank to be effective in financing infrastructure".
"We think that there is a massive investment challenge which faces all of us in BRICS and also South Africa as part of the African continent," Davies said, adding that he could not go into the details of the work already done on the investment bank.
The South African chairperson of the BRICS Business Council, Patrice Motsepe, said that mutual benefit was also an important factor for the BRICS countries.
'Not just a talk-shop'
"We don't want discussions that are theoretical or academic," he said, noting that specific projects had been identified for discussion. "For us, it's to focus on value-added exports, the processing of products and manufacturing in South Africa
"I'm confident that in the next few year, you will see a change in the quality of trade that has been taking place between South Africa and Africa, and the rest of the BRICS countries," Motsepe said.
"From a South African perspective ... we need to create jobs for our people. We need to create opportunities for improving the standards of living for our people."
The BRICS Business Council delegates will meet on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's proceedings at the Sandton Convention Centre, where President Zuma is due to give an address.