While Africa – a continent endowed with mineral resources and growth potential – had intratrade of merely 16%, the percentage of European countries trading among each other stood at over 40%, a Brics Business Council Infrastructure launch heard yesterday.
Brics refers to Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa – a platform aimed at strengthening and promoting economic, trade, business and investment ties among the four countries.
In urging business and government to push the frontiers of trade among African countries, Transnet group chief executive Siyabonga Gama told the gathered businesspeople, investors and academics that the low African intratrade anomaly was “a cause for concern”.
Said Gama: “As an African nation, we are inextricably linked – first and foremost – to our brothers and sisters on the continent.
“The risks we face have global implications and are being confronted by the whole world. They include a diverse range of disruptive influences – poverty, climate change, a growing shortage of economic and ecological resources; the perceived threat of automation and political upheavals.”
But Africa’s problems were “neither implacable nor unsolvable”.
He said last week’s tit-for-tat trade war between the US and China had made it imperative for Brics countries to “hold on to our ideals by working together for a common good of all our people”.
“By working together, Brics countries can improve infrastructure, reduce barriers to market entry, promote innovation and reduce policy uncertainty. These objectives remain key to attracting investment, raising productivity across the economy and promoting job creation.
“In months ahead, these certitudes will become even more important if Brics nations are to work together as a cohesive and supportive team,” Gama said.
He said the Brics infrastructure working group has conducted desktop research outlining how Brics member states were preparing for the fourth industrial revolution. The research covered technological advancement to enable transport networks, skills development, access to information and infrastructure development.
“Digitalisation can easily be the propeller shaft driving economic growth,” added Gama.
He warned: “We must note the changes that are currently crystallising will become the norm in future. Institutions are not eternal and growth is not guaranteed.
“Together, we must harness a shared vision for the future so that change can be comparable to progress. This shared future must continuously be debated and defended, amid constant debate and new ways of thinking.”
Holistic view of projects
A portal aimed at showcasing the project pipeline in various African countries was launched in Johannesburg yesterday.
According to Brics infrastructure working group chairperson Ravi Nair the portal “will bring to life the project pipeline in the African region and other Brics member states”.
He continued: “It will provide a holistic view of all projects in South Africa, Africa, Brics member states, their description, location and benefits.”
“The working group is creating the connectivity of Brics projects as a vehicle for project owners to meet with potential funders or sponsors. It will also be available to the global community interested in understanding the status of infrastructure projects and their funding.
“The project’s visibility will also allow African investors interested in opportunities in other Brics member states to have access to the project information.
“We believe regular dialogue between business and government will bring to the fore key challenges that business see as impediments to much greater co-operation.”
- The portal, to be linked to other African business development sites like the Nepad, will be hosted by the Brics business council.
- Visit bricsbusinesscouncil.co.za for more information.