Strengthening Relations is Key Topic on First Day of BRICS-PF

The Emperors Place in Johannesburg is currently hosting the two-day 9th BRICS-PF (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Parliamentary Forum. The assembly gathers lawmakers and policymakers together from BRICS Member States. With South Africa assuming the BRICS Chairmanship, this assembly gains special importance, reflecting our country’s commitment to inter-parliamentary ties.

Over 250 delegates – including Deputy President Mr Paul Mashatile – have converged to discuss BRICS-Africa relations and foster collective progress. Various debates, breakaway session or commissions will take place, during which delegates will discuss critical regional and global challenges through parliamentary diplomacy.

On the first day, one key topic dominated presentations, namely strengthening relations by promoting multilateralism. After the official opening by Secretary to the South African Parliament Mr Xolile George, several presenters spoke to the theme of the event: Harnessing Multilateralism and Parliamentary Diplomacy to Deepen BRICS and Africa Partnership for accelerated implementation of the Africa Free-Trade Agreement.

Former National Assembly (NA) Speaker, Ms Baleka Mbete, gave background information about the first BRICS-PF which took place in 2015 in Russia. There, all parliaments declared their commitment to strengthen, promote and connect through multilateral means and have regular, expert consultations to develop new legislative mechanisms through various memorandums of understanding.

For example, the Africa Free-Trade Agreement (AfCTA) was an instrument that could, “Uplift 30 million people out of poverty as there were 1.3 bn people in 55 countries valued at R3,4 trillion dollars,” according to Ms Mbete. This would only be successful if, “African and BRICS countries come together and strengthen trade and economic development,” she said. The AfCTA would also promote Africa’s global position and contribute to economic growth.

“The world has moved from a unipolar to a multipolar stage. Africa’s potential – through BRICS – is boundless and this could contribute to a more balanced and inclusive world trade as it would alleviate trade barriers,” was the view of Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the NA Speaker. She also expressed her excitement about the role BRICS-PF could play, as it would allow us to contribute to a better Africa, concluded Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula.

The Chairperson Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Supra Mahumapelo, stated that the AfCTA can reposition Africa to be the world’s fastest growing economy as it will take people out of abject poverty. “This agreement seeks to eliminate trade barriers and advance trade across sectors in African economies and improve the regional value chain on the continent,” stated Mr Mahumapelo.

He further advised that, “The era of calling Africa dark and at war with itself is over,” but that: “We should work on our own skills to ensure the advancement of humanity by having peace through working together.”

Key opportunities highlighted by different MPs from several countries included:

  • A reduction of 92% in duty free tariffs by India
  • Brazil pledged assistance in renewable energy such as ethanol, solar and wind power
  • Russia is hard at work to encourage African countries to work with them through their companies and local municipalities
  • Ports, railways and roads were high on the priority list for China
  • Egypt promised to invest in infrastructure through construction and impart their knowledge in these sectors to alleviate unemployment on the continent
  • The advancement of multilateralism for Iran is an important factor in strengthening countries in the global south on the world arena
  • Trade and investment by the United Arab Emirates will increase to $489bn from $135bn by 2050
  • Namibia also plans to increase its trade volume after joining BRICS in January 2024.

Mr Amos Masondo, Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), stated in his conclusion that the 1,3bn consumers in Africa will benefit the most from this agreement because continental companies stand to benefit and bolster revenue streams by trading fully. He closed the forum by stating: “Collaboration is vital in driving economic growth on the continent through embracing multilateralism and diplomacy. This would lead to unlocking economic opportunities by turning the vison of AfCFTA into reality.”

27 September 2023

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