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Elias Monage, Member of the South African Chapter of the BRICS Business Council: South Africa in BRICS is the voice of the entire African continent

In an interview with TV BRICS, the President of the Black Business Council spoke about the key topics that will be discussed at the BRICS summit.

Less than a week remains until start of the BRICS summit in South Africa, which will take place from 22 to 24 August in Johannesburg.

In an exclusive interview with TV BRICS, Elias Monage, Member of the South African part of the BRICS Business Council and President of the Black Business Council (BBC), spoke about the significance of the upcoming event, how long it took to prepare for it, the key topics of the summit and outlined his position on the possible expansion of BRICS.

What is the significance of the upcoming BRICS summit in 2023?

I think perhaps it will be important to start by just sharing the things that we’ve done as BRICS.

The importance of this and the significance of the BRICS Business Council Forum and the summit is basically for us as the country that we are the current chair to hand the report and take stock of the things that we’ve done to date as a Business Council in BRICS.

Secondly, to reflect on the achievements and the challenges that we have achieved as a Council, because we oversee all the workstreams within the Council in terms of the working streams whether it’s just the economy, it’s green economy, it’s manufacturing.

We need to basically reflect on the achievements that we have done to date.

And thirdly, is for us to hand the report to the heads of state for the five countries in terms of the things that we have done and consolidated across the Council. As the chair we basically then consolidate the reports for all the streams.

When did the preparations for the summit start? How long did this process take?

We started the preparation from last year in terms of preparing for the summit, preparing for the workstreams, coordinating all the activities within various countries in terms of alignment, in terms of preparing it for the global report. So that as the chair we need to tabulate the report that is comprised all of the five countries. And that’s the reason why we started way in advance, more than six months ago in terms of that report.

What are the key themes or key topics expected to be discussed during the BRICS summit in South Africa this year?

I mean, firstly, the theme for the 2023 chairmanship of BRICS summit for us is one, where basically the saying is ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism’.

Our key priorities for us is one, developing a partnership towards an equitable just transition in terms of energy, two, transforming education and skills development for the future; unlocking opportunities through the African Free Continental Trade Agreement; strengthening post-pandemic socioeconomic recovery and the attainment of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development; and strengthening multilateralism, including working towards the reform of global governance institutions and strengthening the meaningful participation of women in peace processes. For us those are the key priorities during our chairmanship of the Council.

Some of the issues that will basically emerge from this Council is then to look at the energy cooperation within the BRICS, to look at various other issues in terms of the different facets of energy, whether it can be gas, nuclear, clean energy, solar, wind or coal power. So those are some of the things that basically will form the critical aspects in this coming summit.

The other part will be to look at the infrastructure within BRICS countries, and the other part will basically be a celebration of the tenth-year anniversary of BRICS. The other things for us will then to look at the New Development Bank, the NDB, in terms of various themes that to date we have achieved¾the partnership, the MOU that have been concluded between the BRICS Bank and the Global Business Council of BRICS in terms of funding models, various things that they’ve done today.

We also plan to analyse the development of the manufacturing sector, the digital economy, different aspects of vocational training. South Africa in BRICS is the voice of the entire African continent and since the rest of the countries are also part of Africa, we want to understand how to move the continent towards multilateralism and inclusiveness so that the African continent becomes a model of mutually beneficial cooperation for all countries.

In addition, the BRICS-relevant financing schemes necessary for the development of financing organisations other than the NDB will be discussed so that member countries have a common view on this issue. Some of the issues again for us, we’ll to look at the manufacturing within BRICS in terms of various things that need to be done in supporting both the energy and the infrastructure and also the digital economy to that effect.

So those are some of the issues that will basically form the part and parcel of the debate and discussions in this coming summit.

Will the summit discuss the expansion of the BRICS alliance?

I don’t see this summit or the Business Council discussing the expansion of the BRICS configuration. And the reason I’m saying this is because if we didn’t debate the extension, or the expansion of BRICS, it basically means we suppose they are first and foremost to debate the criteria and guidelines for that. And up until now we didn’t have any debate and discussions within the Council and therefore it will then be difficult to start at this summit to debate and agree on the expansion.

Therefore, in my opinion, it is now only possible to discuss recommendations and criteria for BRICS expansion.

How long can be the process of adopting a new country as a BRICS member?

In my own personal assessment, I think, if we then to debate the expansion, it means we need to agree on a process from this Council that maybe before the next summit we can say we need to conclude the expansion of the Council. Those are some of the issues that are subject for debate and discussion at this coming summit.

In your opinion, what could be the outcome of the BRICS summit?

The number of organisations that have alluded to the fact that during the summit or the Business Forum it will then have B2B discussions where they will conclude agreements in terms of Memorandum of Understanding and they’ll conclude various agreements for collaboration and cooperation going forward.

So that’s part of the complementarity that people will see in the next coming period in terms of having parallel sessions where various companies will conclude collaboration agreements at the back of the summit and the Business Forum.

What is the role of the BRICS countries in strengthening cooperation in restoring the global economy?

If we look at post-pandemic it is important to note that many countries are looking at the recovery and the reconstruction of their respective economy, that’s the first thing.

Secondly, it is our understanding that within the BRICS countries or BRICS Plus we are looking at a better collaboration and working together as part of the recovery and reconstruction at the back of the global pandemic.

Thirdly, we are looking at—even from Africa point of view—using Africa Free Continental Agreement for the benefit of the entire continent within BRICS so that we then use both the BRICS relationship and collaboration within the continent to rebuild our economy or to recover what basically we have lost in terms of the pandemic.

The fourth part for us, we are also looking at strengthening multilateralism within the continent and within the BRICS countries. So that whether it’s Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Burkina Faso, or any other African country – these countries are part of the continent, they are part of the Free African Continental Agreement.

So these are some of the issues that we’re looking at as part of BRICS playing a major role because it is our view that South Africa is a gateway to Africa and therefore we need to play that role in bringing our sister countries and fellow countrymen within the BRICS configuration.

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