South Africa’s presence alongside four other leading emerging economies for the first time tomorrow at a summit in China shows the growing influence of the BRICS nations, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.
“This organization has evolved into a new and highly important international format,” Medvedev said in an interview with Chinese state channel CCTV released late yesterday. It allows Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa “to forge a common position by major, fast-growing countries” at a summit in China.
Medvedev will meet with BRICS leaders in Sanya, China, for talks on issues including the use of national currencies in foreign trade to Middle East unrest, said Sergei Prikhodko, his foreign policy aide. They plan to develop a unified stance for November’s Group of 20 meeting in Cannes, France, Arakady Dvorkovich, the president’s top economic adviser, said.
South Africa was invited in December to join the group originally known as the BRIC countries, which held its first summit in 2009 in Russia, followed a year later by a meeting in Brazil. The leaders of the five economies, which Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says will collectively match the size of the U.S. by 2020, have called for a bigger voice in international financial institutions and a more diversified global monetary system.
South Africa, which has a population of 49 million compared with China’s 1.36 billion, is betting that joining the BRICS will increase its influence on the world stage, while strengthening political and trade ties within the bloc. The country accounts for about a third of gross domestic product in sub-Saharan Africa and will offer other BRICS members improved access to 1 billion consumers on the continent, as well as mineral resources including oil and platinum.
“This is a significant development for the countries which belonged to BRIC, because this adds a new continent to the group,” Dvorkovich, told reporters yesterday in Moscow. “BRICS now brings together leaders of countries on four continents: Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America.”
The five BRICS nations will coordinate their positions in international bodies, including the United Nations, Dvorkovich said. Russia will lobby for the interests of its partners at a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations next month in Deauville, France, he added.
South Africa is the only African nation in the G-20. While Brazil, India and South Africa currently hold rotating seats on the UN Security Council, Russia and China have permanent seats.
Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill coined the BRIC term in 2001 to describe the fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa’s 2009 GDP was $285 billion, less than a quarter of Russia’s and 6 percent of China’s.
“South Africa’s economy is very small,” O’Neill, now chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management International, said in a December interview. “For South Africa to be treated as part of BRIC doesn’t make any sense to me. But South Africa as a representative of the African continent is a different story.”