BRICS-AFRICA WBA Trade Conference Held in Durban, South Africa

20 August 2023
South Africa, South Africa

On August 20-21, 2023, the BRICS-Africa WBA Trade Conference was held in Durban, South Africa. 

The event was attended by the Chairpersons and members of the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance, as well as government and business representatives from BRICS and African countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Botswana. 

The Conference participants learned more about the economic potential and possible directions of bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the African countries. 

The key topic of the BRICS-AFRICA WBA Trade Conference was summarizing outcomes and discussing the results of the Alliance’s work during South Africa’s Chairmanship in BRICS. In particular, on the sidelines of the Conference, the BRICS WBA closed session took place. During the session, the National Chapters’ members discussed the proposed initiatives and strategies aimed at the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship in the BRICS. 

Lebogang Zulu, the Rotating Chairperson of BRICS WBA in 2023, addressed the delegations with the welcoming speech. Lebogang Zulu noted that the collective vision of the members of Alliance to create impact has indeed translated into a series of inspirational initiatives that have fostered connectivity and collaboration among the enterprising women across the BRICS and African nations. 

Following this, addresses to the attendees were made by the dignitaries of the Republic of South Africa. In particular, Sheila Motsepe, Head of Human Capital of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, presented her report. During the speech, Sheila Motsepe stressed that the activities of the Alliance cover a wide range of issues, ranging from the issues of running small and medium-sized businesses to issues related to the field of health and ICT. 

Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province, delivered a report on “The Role of Multilateral Trade and Investment in economic re-calibration, reconstruction and recovery plans”, emphasizing the fundamental principles of multilateralism such as consultation and solidarity. “In the landscape of interconnected economies, multirole trade and investment play an essential role in forging a path to more resilient globe and economic order”, the Premier added. 

Her Royal Majesty Queen KaMayisela Zulu also welcomed the Conference participants. The Queen noted that “there’s a greater opportunity for better partnership between traditional monarchs, government and private sectors in order to fully further unlock opportunities across the continent to South Africa”. 

Within the framework of the Conference, two panel discussions were held. The first one was dedicated to the topic of transforming global challenges into opportunities and driving inclusive growth. Elena Chashchina, Co-owner and Managing Partner of EPOTOS Group of Companies, took part in the discussion from the Russian side. She emphasized the importance of government assistance in the development of small and medium-sized businesses. “It is difficult for people to realize startups on their own without government support, however, with government support, small businesses will be able to grow and advance”. At the end of discussion, panelists concluded that the prosper future of women would depend on common efforts of both the government initiatives and the BRICS WBA projects including educational and technological exchange within the BRICS nations. 

The second panel discussion was devoted to the topic of digital transition for gender equity. Kristina Romanovskaya, Owner and General Manager of Lazarevskoye Breeding Farm, spoke from the Russian side within the framework of the discussion. “Using environmentally friendly technologies and following the path of sustainable development is very labor-intensive and energy-consuming for business. Efficient and rapid development of agriculture is possible if a government shares responsibility with agricultural producers. To strengthen food security, it is necessary to invest in new technologies, environmentally friendly approaches for crop and livestock production,” explained Kristina Romanovskaya.

Besides, the video of BRICS Gender Dividend Debate, held on July 14, 2023, was presented at the Conference. It was commented by Director General of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Advocate Mikateko Joyce Maluleke. She reaffirmed the desire of the BRICS WBA to address the lack of information among women, implement digital marketplace for female traders and promote projects in key sectors such as automotive, ICT, health and infrastructure. Notably that the outcomes of the Debate were reflected in the BRICS Women Development eThekwini Declaration, signed on the sidelines of the XV BRICS Summit by all BRICS WBA Chairpersons. 

The first day of the BRICS-Africa WBA Trade Conference ended with the Gala-dinner with traditional dress code. The Gala dinner was dedicated to the events of 1956, when women of the African countries first openly spoke out against social injustice and gender inequality. 

Moreover, Graziella Parenti, Chairperson of BRICS WBA Brazil Chapter (video message), Sangita Reddy, Chairperson of BRICS WBA India Chapter (video message) and Zhao Haiying, Chairperson of BRICS WBA China Chapter, addressed the participants during the Gala dinner. All the Chairpersons thanked the BRICS WBA South Africa Chapter for the Chairmanship in the BRICS and noted that through joint efforts a significant contribution had been made to the development of women’s small and medium-sized businesses among the BRICS and African countries. 

In particular, Zhao Haiying, Chairperson of BRICS WBA China Chapter, stressed the importance of promoting women’s economic empowerment to accelerate sustainable economic growth, especially in the sphere of digital technology, as well as the need to support women’s participation in international trade and investment cooperation to develop inclusive multilateralism. 

In addition, in the evening of the first day, the e-commerce platform «Agrowex» and the MPower channel of the BRICS Global Television Network (BGTN) were officially presented.

On the second day of the Conference, the ceremony of signing numerous cooperation agreements and partnership contracts between entrepreneurs from the BRICS countries was held, namely: 

1) A cooperation agreement on launching the BRICS Mobility Center was signed between Natalie Vershinina (United Migration Center) and Fikile Hlatshwayo (Africans Do Travel Pty, Ltd). The Center will facilitate smooth and efficient movement of people between Russia and South Africa, as well as will have a direct impact on the development of tourism potential, medical tourism and labor mobility between the countries. 

2) A partnership agreement was signed between Haiying Wang (Shandong Yizhijia Intelligent Technology Co.) and Nokuthula Ndlovu (Projectize Management) on the creation of a common portal that will serve as a unified platform for collecting, analysing and visualising data related to the business community of KwaZulu-Natal, from micro to large businesses. 

3) A partnership agreement was signed between Dr. Jingjing Xu (Meridian Medical Network Corporation) and Dr. Bandile Hadebe (EtaData) on the creation of common medical platform based on the artificial intelligence. 

At the end of the second day, an official gift exchange ceremony among representatives of foreign delegations and a photo session took place. 

After the end of the Conference, the delegations left for Johannesburg to participate in the follow-up events of the BRICS Business Council.