South Africa’s ascendance to the BRICS group of key emerging economies can be described as a enhancement to the country’s brand, Miller Matola, CEO of the International Marketing Council, stated at an IMC roundtable discussion with London’s Financial Times.
“One way or another this will assist us accomplish our country’s growth objectives,” Matola said. He added that being a member of BRICS – the economic alliance that includes Brazil, Russia, India and China – positions South Africa on the centre stage of global change, as opposed to on the sideline, he explained.
“This assists us as a brand. What it really says to the world is, think about South Africa as a significant economic player.”
The roundtable event brought together South Africa’s top corporate executives and politicians to look at South Africa’s function in BRICS as well as the business opportunities membership provided to the country along with the rest of the African continent. It included a panel discussion between top CEOs, some of the finest minds in South African business: Maria Ramos of the Absa banking group, Jerry Vilakazi of Business Unity South Africa, Frontier Advisory’s Martyn Davies, and Benjamin Mophatlane of Business Connexion. The discussion was facilitated by Financial Times bureau chief Andrew England.
Almost all speakers made the point that, in combination with South Africa’s robust economy and developed infrastructure, the country’s standing as the gateway to the rest of Africa presented it an invaluable function in BRICS.
Davies made the point that the ‘S’ in BRICS really should stand for SADC, and not South Africa, making reference to the Southern African Development Community of 15 African states, including Botswana, the DRC, Angola and Tanzania. “This relationship will not merely benefit South Africa, but also the continent, simply because it will certainly open up trade in Africa,” he explained.
Talking prior to the discussion, deputy minister of International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim stated that while South Africa does not technically represent the continent in BRICS, its regular membership would undoubtedly provide Africa a stronger voice, not just within BRICS, but additionally across all international platforms where the BRICS countries are independently represented.
He added that South Africa’s accession to BRICS can be described as natural fit. “Our positive characteristics that put us in a different category include our role as a key economic player in Africa, our mineral and industrial output, our electricity generation capacity, our road, rail, ports, communication infrastructure, our sophisticated financial markets and service industries, our manufacturing capacity, our membership in the G20, and our level of industrialisation,” he said. “All these, and many more, profile us in a very positive way.”
The membership evolved as the result of two years of in-depth planning along with a joint efforts by the public and private sector, Ebrahim said, adding that South Africa should not undervalue its status as a deserving member of BRICS.
“We concur that we do not have a significant world population size when compared with other BRICS member states, including the high-digit growth rates experienced by its BRICS partners,” he said.
“We move from the philosophy that, there are characteristics that fellow BRICS member-states see in us, that we choose to overlook or undermine. We furthermore believe that, if we consistently profile ourselves as that small country on the southern tip of Africa, we will go nowhere.”