South Africa has taken over the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Chairmanship on January 1. The decision to this effect was made at the most recent summit of this informal association in Xiamen, China, in September 2017.
Vice President of the BRICS New Development Bank, Leslie Maasdorp, told TASS that the South African government has not yet hammered out the objectives and agenda of its chairmanship in this integration association.
Nevertheless, one can judge the priorities of South Africa’s policy in relations with its club partners, which are to determine its agenda at the joint events in 2018, based on President Jacob Zuma’s speech at a special session of the BRICS Business Council held in September 2017 during the 9th summit in Xiamen.
Efforts to promote economic development and growth, increase trade volumes and attract investment to the industrial sector of South Africa’s economy were identified as the key objectives for the country’s participation in this format at that time. Special hopes have been pinned on investment in industry, because, according to government’s plans, they should assist the authorities in accomplishing their key declared aims, namely, creating new jobs, and reducing poverty and social inequality.
Resolving conflicts in Africa
Cyril Prinsloo, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, has singled out the development of a common approach to the problem of maintaining peace and security in the countries of the African region, which traditionally remains a major source of instability. These are just some of the political issues South Africa will tackle during its chairmanship in the group of five nations. Currently, more than 1,000 South African peacekeepers are involved in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Internal political difficulties in BRICS countries
According to Vyacheslav Kholodkov, Head of the International Economic Organizations Sector at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), the meeting of the BRICS leaders will not be easy due to the current internal political difficulties in the association’s member-states.
“Since South Africa will hold the BRICS chairmanship in 2018, the summit will be held in that African country. The summit will not be an easy one from a domestic policy point of view,” Kholodkov told TASS, referring to the upcoming 2018 presidential elections in Russia and Brazil as the factors that could make the meeting more difficult. In his view, the situation in Brazil will be the most difficult. “The situation there is very tense due to the fact that there are many flaws in the policy pursued by incumbent head of state Michel Temer, and he is under fire for that. Therefore, the (presidential) election can trigger an internal political standoff and exacerbate the situation in the country, which could turn ugly.”
The expert also pointed to the loss of influence by South African leader Jacob Zuma. “The situation of South African President Jacob Zuma has also been volatile recently. The African National Congress (the oldest political organization of South Africa’s African population and the ruling party – TASS) raised the issue of his voluntary resignation over a number of scandals, due to which a change in that country’s political leadership is possible.”
“In such a difficult internal political situation in South Africa, Brazil and, to some extent, in Russia, the summit and preparations for it will be much more complicated,” Kholodkov emphasized. “These countries’ top officials will have to pay much more attention to work to tackle internal issues, which means that less time and energy will be dedicated to preparations for the landmark summit. Therefore, I expect no breakthrough decisions at this summit.”
AIDS can be major issue during South Africa’s chairmanship
According to Kholodkov, the development of joint mechanisms to fight and prevent the HIV infection could be one of the most pressing and key issues for both South Africa as the BRICS chair and the association’s summit. “One of the central problems that could be discussed at the BRICS summit in South Africa and for which we could find some mutually acceptable solutions is the spread of the HIV infection,” he said. “The fact is that the situation in both Russia and South Africa in this regard is very difficult.”
The expert noted that Russia and South Africa could adopt China’s productive experience from its efforts to fight and prevent this disease. “China has a very positive experience. The number of new HIV-infected people has decreased dramatically there,” he said. “We need to use China’s experience and hammer out a common program.”
“Developing a broad strategy to fight the HIV infection is a major task facing both our country and other BRICS member-states,” the expert concluded.
Informal association of BRICS states
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is an informal inter-state association whose objective is to develop a consistent, active, pragmatic, open and transparent dialogue and cooperation between countries. The association’s member-states also share such principles as a non-aligned status and activities that are not aimed against any third parties. Russia initiated the creation of the association. Annual BRICS summits have been held since 2009 in its member-countries alternately. The host country is the association’s chair and ensures coordination of all current activities. The 2018 summit is set to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.