In six months’ time, South Africa will host the 10th BRICS Summit. This is a significant achievement since the grouping became a formalised inter-state platform.
The timing of the Summit could not come at a better time for Pretoria. The significance in chairing and hosting the Summit represents a strategic moment for the host country to take advantage of its Chairperson in pushing for key institutional mechanisms in terms of global development and strategic governance. It also exemplifies the opportunity for the South African government to identify and pursue a set of objectives aligned to the national political and economic interests that must address the triple helix challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
And it is precisely in this context that South Africa’s BRICS Presidency under Cyril Ramaphosa government needs to be understood.
In the past several weeks as ANC President and, now, as President of the Republic, Cyril Ramaphosa has shown dexterity in what he sees as critical junctures for recalibrating the country’s ailing economy. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ramaphosa pursed an agenda of rebranding South Africa as an investment destination. He showed that he is a man on a mission to reclaim the country’s State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) as being held hostage to be looted. Instead under his watch he sees the SOEs together with international and domestic investors to be drivers of the economy and assist in rebuilding the country’s socio-economic base so that poor and marginalised are provide with access to their basic human right resources. The message in Davos was loud and clear: SA remains open for business but with policy certainty and stability.
The suave of Ramaphosa in Davos was also about retuning the default setting of our foreign policy gauge. For some time now South Africa has been at odds with its direction and vision. This is not to suggest that the bureaucracy in DIRCO have been sitting on their laurels; they have shown stellar commitment in effecting the country’s foreign policy pillars. But their jobs were made that much harder when it became unclear where and who was implementing the foreign policy objectives. What is needed now is clarity and coherence around our foreign agenda is.
So what will Cyril Rampahosa’s BRICS Strategy be? It will be one that builds on Davos and extends the charm offensive to make BRICS an indelible part of the country’s growth, employment and investment pathway. While President Ramaphosa is seized with recorrecting the domestic landscape, and fairly aware of how he will be judged in delivering on the big promises of growing an economy that creates jobs, the newly elected President of the Republic is also acutely attentive that he has to makes the BRICS work for the country’s national development plan and socioeconomic priorities. This means changing the completion of the trade relations between the country and the other BRICS’ countries, increasing the investment footprint and ensuring that South African investors are equally able to access the BRICS markets.
The stage is set for President Ramaphosa to introduce himself to the BRICS leaders in July and present his vision of a rebalanced non-aligned vision that encompasses more than business as usual approach but a more pragmatic and integrated tactic that ensures greater economic traction between South Africa and the BRICS.
Sanusha Naidu is a Senior Research Fellow the Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA.
This article was first published in the Sunday Independent 18 Feb 2018 https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-sunday-independent/20180218/282381220020588