BRICS Business Forum takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa

22 August 2023
South Africa, South Africa

On August 22, 2023, the BRICS Business Forum was held in Johannesburg. 

The event was attended by the Heads of State and Governments of the BRICS member states and representatives of the international business community, including members of the Russian delegation from the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance. 

Five panel sessions were held during the forum: “Interaction and Cooperation: Unlocking BRICS Trade and Investment Opportunities”, “BRICS Agriculture In Focus”, “Delivering on a Just Transition”, “The BRICS Entrepreneurial Opportunity and Market Access as a Key Enabler for SMMes”, and “BRICS in Africa: Unlocking Opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)”. 

Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, delivered his welcome address, focusing on the rapidly changing global agenda. He noted the particular relevance of climate change issues, as well as the increasing role of technological innovation in today’s world. “These trends are reshaping our economies and our societies in profound ways, more profound ways than many of us could project. Add to these changes the fast shift in the locus of economic activity from the traditional northern centers to the new industrial engines of the East and the South, beginning to mirror the true demographics of the world,” the Minister said. 

Brazil’s Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, during his speech, emphasized that Brazil’s focus continues to be on environmental security, agriculture and the green economy. 

Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India, stressed the need to strengthen ties between the BRICS structures: “BRICS member nations can come together through the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance can serve as a powerful force to promote gender equality”. 

In addition, Sergey Katyrin, Chairman of the Russian part of the BRICS Business Council and President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation (CCI), addressed the participants during the panel discussion on “Interaction and Cooperation: Unlocking BRICS Trade and Investment Opportunities”. He noted that absolute volumes of mutual food trade in the framework of the BRICS have been growing dynamically: from $49 billion in 2020 to $73 billion in 2022, or 1.5 times in just two years. “Agriculture is one of the main sectors of the national economies of the BRICS countries,” he added. 

According to Sergey Katyrin, “the potential of economic cooperation among the BRICS countries is huge, but despite the existing positive trends, it has not yet been fully realized.” He emphasized that building up multilateral cooperation with BRICS partners is one of Russia’s foreign policy priorities that was noted in the recently approved Concept of Russia’s Foreign Policy. 

Zhang Shaogang, Vice-Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, spoke at the forum on the state of China’s SMEs, their role in the economy and measures that should be taken to develop them. 

At the end of the BRICS Business Forum, speeches were delivered by senior officials of the five countries: particularly, the President of Brazil Lula da Silva, the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, the Prime Minister of India Norendra Modi.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the leadership session via videoconference. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address was read by Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao. 

During their speeches, the leaders emphasized the growth of economic indicators of the BRICS countries. The Brazilian President Lula da Silva emphasized: “BRICS has overtaken the G7 in terms of purchasing power parity”. Besides, the Brazilian leader supported the creation of the BRICS single currency. “I have advocated the idea of greater financial integration, where we could have a new reference unit which would not replace our national currencies. Joint bank must be a global leader in the financing of projects that address the most pressing challenges of our time by diversifying payment sources in local currencies”, he said. 

The Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that “over the past decade, mutual investment by BRICS member states has increased sixfold. In turn, their investments in the global economy as a whole have doubled. The aggregate exports have reached 20% of the global figure.” “As for Russia, our trade turnover with BRICS partners has added 40.5% and amounted to a record more than 230 billion dollars,” the Russian leader added. He also emphasized the importance of holding various meetings and forums in the BRICS and BRICS+ format. In addition, the Russian leader stressed the role of the New Development Bank as a strategic platform for developing countries. “The New Development Bank is an alternative to the existing development institutions,” Vladimir Putin noted. 

The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi also drew the attention of the forum participants to the role of the BRICS Business Council in the current geopolitical environment: “In the last 10 years, the BRICS Business Council has played a vital role in enhancing our economic cooperation. In 2009, when the first BRICS Summit was held, the world was just coming out of a massive financial crisis and at that time BRICS inverst as a ray of hope for the global economy. Present times also amongst the COVID, pandemic and global divisions on many issues. The world is dealing with economic challenges in such times. Once again the role of BRICS countries is important.” 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s address focused on deepening cooperation for the economic and social development of the BRICS countries and supporting global economic growth. “With cooperation flourishing in various fields, China will work with all other countries to speed up cooperation under the Global Development initiative, strengthen drivers of global development, promote the reform of the World Trade Organisation in a comprehensive and indepth manner, meet common challenges together, and make life better for people across the world,” clarified Wang Wentao on behalf of the Chinese President. 

All BRICS countries emphasized that only cooperation could solve the world’s major problems: poverty, inequality and slow development. The aspiration to continue expanding economic collaboration within the framework of the association was demonstrated by all BRICS members.