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The conference’s overarching goal was to discuss South Africa’s key finance track priorities and to reflect on the achievements of the BRICS over the last decade but also to outline potential future challenges. Therein, implications of the changing global geo-economic context for African and developing countries were debated. BRICS’s engagement in global economic governance forums as well as inter-BRICS and inter-African engagement strategies were emphasized.
The conference was divided into three parts: First, South Africa’s 2018 BRICS priorities in the finance track were explored, then global economic governance reform and economic cooperation were discussed. Lastly, emerging challenges in the global economic order were debated with regard to BRICS and other developing countries.
The opening session was moderated by Ms. Siki Mgabadeli (Financial Journalist) and featured his Excellency Minister Nhlanhla Nene (Minister of Finance, South African Treaury), his Excellency Mr. Kundapur Vaman Kamath (President, New Development Bank), his Excellency Mr. Lesetja Kganyago (Governor, South African Reserve Bank) and Dr. V. Songwe (Executive Secretary, UNECA).
His Excellency Minister Nhlanhla Nene (Minister of Finance, South African Treasury) began the opening session by highlighting that the conference’s theme of navigating global economic turbulence could have not been a better fit in the light of current trading and market conditions. With respect to the upcoming 10th BRICS summit, he pointed out that the conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress that has already been achieved since the summit’s inception but also to consider future challenges and obstacles.
All four presentations focussed on the importance of sustainable development and industrialisation within BRICS member states while the panellists emphasised the consequences and effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution but also the opportunities new technologies provide. His Excellency Mr. Kundapur Vaman Kamath (President, New Development Bank) highlighted the need and opportunity for funding in local currency while especially Africa provides vast opportunities.
What is next for the BRICS?
The event concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Neuma Grobbelaar (Director of Research, SAIIA) on the topic of emerging challenges in the global economic order and potential coping mechanisms for BRICS. This session featured Dr. Karin Costa Vasquez (Director, Centre for Africa, Latin American and Caribbean Studies), Dr. Georgy Toloraya (Director of the Asian Strategy Centre at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences), Dr. Abhijnan Rej (Fellow: Strategic Studies Programme, Observer Research Foundation) and Dr. Gregory Chin (Associate Professor, York University).
A reoccurring theme was the importance of sustainable infrastructure and development. In times of growing global uncertainty, the question of what is next for BRICS becomes more central than ever. The panellists highlighted that BRICS has several enormous tasks to address: institutionalisation, internal cooperation, as well as regulation of agreements and decision-making. The question remains whether BRICS can suggest an alternative model such as a credit rating agency led by the BRICS bloc. The panellists stressed that a shift from emerging economies to emerging powers can already be observed and that the future impact remains to be seen.
Lastly, Ms. Luanda Mpungose (Programme Officer, SAIIA) concluded the key issues that were debated during the conference which included the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, thus, growing opportunities, the importance of the inclusion of Africa, specifically South Africa, in order to avoid fragmentation, as well as various important issues of what should happen going forward and how this should be pertinent for Africa.