Johannesburg - South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa says strengthening trade and investment is crucial to economic recovery as fellows BRICS members Brazil, Russia, India and China contribute to the global effort to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He was addressing his BRICS counterparts this week at a virtual 12th BRICS Leaders Summit, which was chaired by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
“Trade and investment has been disrupted, as has global supply and demand. For emerging economies already facing challenges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, the pandemic has taken an even greater toll,” said President Ramaphosa.
He called on BRICS partners to ramp up investment in not just South Africa but across Africa.
“As BRICS countries, we are called upon to unite, to demonstrate our collective will and to provide leadership. This pandemic has taught us the necessity of strengthening health systems and being prepared for future emergencies of this nature and scale. It has shown us the importance of investing in science, technology and innovation.
“Above all, it has taught us that international solidarity must pave the way to stability, security and economic growth.”
President Ramaphosa called for increased investment in Africa, particularly within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which becomes operational in January 2021.
“Investors from the BRICS countries will realise considerable benefits by investing in Africa, particularly with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area from January 2021. We need to ensure that trade rules take the interests of developing countries into account, particularly with respect to development through industrialisation.
“Reform of the World Trade Organisation is therefore key to rebalancing the global trading system and ensuring that its benefits are shared more equitably,” he said.
The South African leader – who is also the Chairman of the African Union, said the international community should support a comprehensive stimulus package for African economies.
“We welcome the indications from the New Development Bank that it aims to provide up to $10 billion in crisis-related assistance and to support economic recovery efforts. This will enable African countries to contain the disease and rebuild our damaged economies.”
The New Development Bank has to date approved US$4 billion in new coronavirus-related emergency assistance projects, including US$1 billion for South Africa health and social relief measures.
President Ramaphosa urged BRICS to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre in South Africa, as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration.
“We support the initiative to establish an integrated early warning system for preventing mass infectious diseases, and believe this is a project that could be supported by the New Development Bank. Investing in science, technology and innovation will not only prepare us for future health emergencies, but it will also enable us to confront other global challenges.
“Our ministries responsible for science and their funding agencies should be commended for the speed and efficiency with which they mobilised the capacities of our BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Framework Programme in their response to COVID-19. We should step up cooperation in this area to support the recovery effort.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said terrorism was the biggest problem the world faced today, and included a strong pitch for reforms of the UN Security Council and organisations including the IMF and WTO in his address to at the summit.
PM Modi said India's vaccine production and delivery capabilities were a big plus for the world as it sought ways of arresting COVID-19.
China’s President Xi Jinping called on BRICS countries to remain bulwarks of fairness and justice; and denounced interference in other countries' internal affairs, unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction".
President Xi also called for joint efforts to create a peaceful and stable environment for development.
In his address, President Putin said the new coronavirus vaccines developed in his country “work effectively and safely” and urged BRICS to “join forces” for mass production of medicines.
BRICS countries comprise 41 percent of the world’s population, 24 percent of global GDP and around 17 percent of international trade.