Dear Fellow South African
Later this week, I will join the leaders of China, Brazil, Russia and India at the 14th BRICS
Leaders’ Summit, which will be hosted virtually by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The value of South Africa’s membership of BRICS has grown substantially since we joined this
group of emerging economies 12 years ago. As we work to rebuild our country in the wake of
the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to be gained from our participation in BRICS and the
relationships we have established with other member countries.
At the outset, BRICS countries identified the strengthening of economic and financial ties as
one of the key pillars of its cooperation. The countries have adopted the Strategy for BRICS
Economic Partnership to increase access to each other’s markets, promote mutual trade and
investment and create a business-friendly environment for investors in all BRICS countries.
An important part of this strategy, particularly for South Africa, is to diversify trade so that
more manufactured goods, rather than raw commodities, are traded.
Last year, over 17% of South Africa’s exports were destined for other BRICS countries, while
over 29% of our total imports came from these countries. These countries are therefore
significant trading partners, and the value of this trade is continuing to grow. Total South
African trade with other BRICS countries reached R702 billion in 2021 up from R487 billion in
At a time when we are focused on improving the capacity and competitiveness of our
economy, these trade linkages will prove vital to the growth of local industry. There is
therefore a direct relationship between, on the one hand, our reforms in energy,
telecommunications and transport, our investment in infrastructure and our efforts to reduce
red tape, and, on the other hand, the work underway to increase exports to our BRICS
partners. These reforms are also important for encouraging greater investment from BRICS
countries into our economy.
One area with great potential is tourism, which has been badly affected by the COVID-19
pandemic. Tourists from other BRICS countries accounted for 65% of all arrivals in South
Africa in 2018, and these markets will therefore be expected to make an important contribution
to the recovery of this sector. It is therefore significant that visitors from India and China can
now make use of our new eVisa programme to make it easier and less costly to visit our
As we mobilise financing from different sources to fund our ambitious infrastructure build
programme, we expect the New Development Bank – also known as the BRICS Bank – to play
an important role in providing financial and project preparation support for infrastructure and
sustainable development projects. South Africa has already received $5.4 billion, currently
worth around R86 billion, from the New Development Bank to improve service delivery in
critical areas. The Bank also demonstrated its flexibility in rapidly approving $2 billion for each
BRICS member under the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Programme to fund the fight against
the pandemic and to support our economic recovery.
Alongside the engagements between governments, the BRICS Business Council and the BRICS
Women’s Business Alliance are building ties between our respective business communities.
They have been looking at the development of sectors such as agribusiness, aviation, financial
services, energy, manufacturing and infrastructure, while also improving regulatory
environments and developing skills.
The collaboration among BRICS members in the area of health and in response to the COVID19 pandemic in particular has placed South Africa in a better position to respond effectively
to the current and future health emergencies. After several years of planning, the virtual
BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre was launched in March. This centre will
enable BRICS countries to engage in joint vaccine research, development and co-production.
It will contribute to the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, strengthen health systems
and help our countries to respond to future pandemics.
We see the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre as a valuable development in
our efforts to strengthen vaccine manufacturing capacity in South Africa and on the African
continent more broadly. We will be calling on our BRICS partners to support the principle that
vaccines destined for Africa should be produced on the continent.
Earlier this month, the BRICS Ministers of Agriculture, adopted a BRICS Strategy on Food
Security Cooperation. This is especially important as concerns grow around food security in
the wake of COVID-19, the conflict in Ukraine and the increasing effects of climate change.
The strategy aims to maintain sustainable agriculture production, unhindered supply of seeds,
fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, access to markets and stable functioning of food value
More broadly, this week’s summit aims to usher in a new era for global development that is
more inclusive, sustainable and fair. Through the reform of the multilateral system, including
the United Nations, and by refocusing the attention and resources of the global community
on the sustainable development agenda, the BRICS group can support a sustained and
equitable global recovery.
The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is a valuable platform for South Africa to strengthen ties with its
partner countries in support of our own growth and employment creation. More than that, the
summit is our opportunity to contribute to a better world, in which all countries have a better
chance to recover from this pandemic and to flourish.
With best regards,