A review of the international press in recent times shows that the BRICS nations are slowly losing their sheen. You see articles that focus on how individual members of this group are faced with several domestic challenges. Growth is slowing down, currencies are under pressure, current account deficit is soaring and fiscal situation is far from comfortable. Each member of this group is busy tackling one or more of these issues. As a result, the realisation of the expectations that were set for the BRICS a few years back now look like a distant dream.
There is some merit in this narrative. However, to rule the BRICS out is premature. With 43% of the world’s population, 40% of its currency reserves, 18% of its GDP and 17% of its trade, the BRICS is a force to reckon with. Its presence and impact will continue to be felt. In fact, the recent turn of events has made the BRICS even more conscious of the need to cooperate and work together.
As a result, at the fifth BRICS Summit held in Durban earlier this year, a new institutional mechanism was launched called the BRICS Business Council. The mandate given by the political leadership to this council was to look at measures that can enhance trade and investments and promote BRICS partnership with Africa for its industrialisation, integration and development. The first meeting of this council was held in Johannesburg a few weeks back and it was just the kind of start one could have hoped for to impart momentum to the working of this group. The attendance was excellent. Discussions were rich and wide ranging. And with more than 100 CEOs of some of the largest businesses from across Africa, this engagement was a fertile ground for exchange of ideas on the future of the BRICS and Africa. The presence of the Chairperson of the African Union, President of the African Development Bank, President of South Africa and leading members of his Cabinet underlined the political support for this initiative. As members of the BRICS Business Council sat together to firm up their agenda of work, several interesting and practical suggestions came up.
The issue of connectivity amongst BRICS countries has been a subject of debate for a while. You can’t transact business if you can’t travel easily. A case for having more direct flights between member nations was made. Closely following this was a