South Africa was set to hand over the chair of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping at the start of the sixth Brics summit in Fortaleza on Tuesday.
President Jacob Zuma is leading a high-level South African government and business delegation to the two-day summit. The business delegation will participate in Brics Business Council meetings on the side-lines of the summit.
During its tenure as chair, South Africa fully implemented the eThekwini Action Plan that the five Brics leaders tasked the country with carrying out at the fifth Brics summit in Durban last year.
Over the course of last year following the summit, South Africa inaugurated the Brics Business Forum, establishing its operational procedures and identifying its priority focus areas. The Brics Think Tanks Council was also established to provide critical analysis and policy advice to the Brics leaders.
South Africa also hosted key ministerial meetings, including meetings of the Brics National Security Advisors and of the Brics ministers of trade, finance, agriculture, education, health, social security and science.
Brics development bank
The five economies are expected to sign off on the new institutions at this summit - including a Brics development bank - after two years of tough negotiations.
The five countries will pool an initial US$50-billion for the bank, with each country contributing an equal amount, and seek to gain influence by offering developing nations an alternative to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The leaders are also expected to set up a $100-billion contingency pool, which could be available by 2015, to help any of its members if they are hit by a sudden loss of foreign capital.
Since its first Summit in 2009, Brics has consolidated its position as a positive force for the democratisation of international relations, and the countries have forged an impressive partnership, carrying out cooperation initiatives in more than 30 areas.
"Brics membership advances South Africa's national interests through pursuing key economic priorities related to poverty alleviation, job creation and reducing inequality," Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj told reporters in Pretoria on Monday.
Boosting intra-BRICS trade
However, boosting intra-Brics trade remains a key objective, although progress has already been made. South Africa's total trade with the Brics countries reached R380.4-billion in 2013, an increase of 27.5% over the 2012 figure of R298.2-billion
South Africa's total trade with Brazil grew from R20.1-billion in 2012 to R21.8-billion in 2013, representing growth of 8.46%. Trade with Russia trade increased by 47.06%, from R5.1-billion to R7.5-billion, over the same period, while trade with India grew by 18.3%, from R68.3-billion to R80.8-billion in 2013.
Trade with China, South Africa's largest bilateral trading partner, expanded from R204.6-billion in 2012 to R270.1-billion in 2013, representing growth of 32.01%.
At a regional level, Maharaj said South Africa sought to gain tacit support from Brics partners on a regional level for the promotion of the African Agenda.
"Another key advantage for Africa in particular, is that the Brics-Africa cooperation will support Africa's efforts to diversify and modernise its economies through infrastructure development, knowledge exchange, increased access to technology, enhanced capacity-building and investment in human capital," Maharaj said.
On the international level, South Africa seeks to obtain increased support for the reform of international financial institutions, the revival of the Doha Development Agenda, as well as the reform of the United Nations and the UN Security Council.