The 6th BRICS Business Council Annual Meeting was held in Durban, South Africa on 22 and 23 July 2018.
The meeting was attended by over 400 representatives from the business communities of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as well as representatives from strategic partners such as the New Development Bank. As the principal meeting of the business community within BRICS, the holding of an Annual Meeting, is one of the key annual deliverables of the BRICS Business Council.
During its deliberations, the BRICS Business Council recognised the achievements and progress the Council had made over the past year and analysed the opportunities and challenges facing the emerging economies. The five BRICS countries reinforced their ongoing commitment and agreed on the importance of ensuring greater economic, trade and investment ties amongst the BRICS countries.
The Annual Meeting was presided over by Dr Iqbal Survé, Chairman of the BRICS Business Council and founder and Chairman of the Sekunjalo Group. Mr. Paulo Cesar De Souza e Silva, Chairman of the Brazilian Chapter and Chairman of EMBRAER, Mr. Sergey Katyrin, Chairman of the Russian Chapter and Chairman of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, Mr. Onkar Kanwar, Chairman of the Indian Chapter and Managing Director of Apollo Tyres Ltd., Captain Xu Lirong, Chairman of the Chinese Chapter and Chairman of China COSCO SHIPPING Corporation Ltd, were present at the meeting.
The three major focus areas identified for South Africa BRICS Business Council’s rotating chairmanship were:
Youth – Fostering Entrepreneurship
The Digital Economy – Skills Development for the 4th Industrial Revolution
Agriculture and Food Security
These core themes were advanced by the work programme which included the continued deliberation on the establishment of a BRICS Seed Bank, as well as a presentation on youth entrepreneurship.
The theme of the Digital economy – Skills Development for the 4th Industrial Revolution was underscored through the Skills Development Working Group launching its Future Skills Challenge on July 21, in Durban, on the eve of the Annual Meeting. The 2018 BRICS Skills Challenge is scheduled to take place in September and October 2018 in Johannesburg.
The first official engagement of the Council was with Acting Premier, Sihle Zikalala, who warmly welcomed them to the host Province of KwaZulu-Natal.
A special session on Investment Opportunities in South Africa, was incorporated into the programme with contributions made by Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, the Presidential Envoys on Investment, Jacko Maree and Phumzile Langeni and Acting Premier MEC Sihle Zikalala who emphasised the attractiveness of South Africa as a destination for investment from its BRICS partners.
The nine working groups of the BRICS Business Council organised their annual meetings on the afternoon of July 22. During these parallel sessions, the working groups deliberated on the progress made over the past year, adopted their summary reports and exchanged views on the priorities going forward.
Discussion on the following BRICS Business Council initiatives were deliberated upon and will be taken forward in the ongoing programme of work of the Council, with additional consultation with the relevant stakeholders:
The Establishment of the BRICS Credit Rating Agency;
The New International Payment System; and
Memorandum for supporting Forest Certification
The Digital Economy Working Group, established at the Mid-Term meeting as the 9th Working Group, in March 2018, met for the first time in South Africa during the Annual Meeting. During their deliberations they focused on enhancing the complementarity of industries and fostering innovative economic development based on advanced technology and skills.
The strategic partnership between the BRICS Business Council and the New Development Bank was reinforced through the co-hosted, Working Breakfast, addressed by two VPs of the NDB, Xian Zhu and Leslie Maasdorp, as well as the Chairs of all the Council Chapters.
At the plenary session, the Council reviewed the major work and achievements during South Africa’s presidency in 2018 and listened to the reports presented by the nine working groups, on energy and the green economy, financial services, deregulation, manufacturing, infrastructure, agribusiness, skills development, regional aviation and the digital economy.
A proposal made to the BRICS Business Council, arising from deliberations from the 2018 BRICS Youth Summit, was to consider the establishment of a Youth Working Group, as the 10th Working Group of the Council. The Council will review and deliberate on the proposal in the coming months.
A critical annual deliverable of the BRICS Business Council is its Annual Report, which reviews the programme of work of the preceding period and makes recommendations, was signed by the Chairs of all the chapters. The Annual Report will be submitted to the BRICS Heads of State on 26 July during the 10th BRICS Summit which will be held in Johannesburg from July 25 to 27.
Dr Survé also called on business communities in the five countries to build a community of shared interests, further implement the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, and enhance cooperation in innovative growth, digital economy, international production capacity and connectivity.
Looking ahead, Dr Survé said, the BRICS Business Council was also reviewing other proposed recommendations including an energy information portal, energy agency, joint implementation of transport infra-structure development projects and youth entrepreneurship, fourth industrial revolution skills development, the e-commerce platform and food security and safety.
He said the Council was also carrying forward trade investment cooperation and facilitation, cooperation with the New Development Bank and the enormous prospects presented by the digital economy.
Mr Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, the Brazilian Chapter Chairman said the Business Council has a pivotal role to play recommending to our governments the priorities they should pursue and deliver, in order to facilitate commerce and investment. In this sense, and to achieve shared development, the Brazilian Chapter congratulates all pragmatic initiatives presented with focus on topics with relevant economic impact for the five countries, such as the roadmap for cooperation in administrative barriers elimination and the project regarding civil aviation supply chain development
Mr. Sergey Katyrin, the Chairman of the Russian Chapter marked the importance of strengthening the business ties amongst BRICS countries, involving more companies into BRICS Business Council and Working Group activities. He said that work on barriers elimination and favorable business environment creation should be continued. He also suggested to actively involve representatives of New Development Bank into BRICS Business Council Working Group activity, so all parties could have the most relevant information about each other current projects, initiatives and priorities. Mr. Katyrin emphasised the significance of BRICS Business Women Alliance establishment and expressed confidence that positive solution will be found for this initiative.
Mr. Onkar Kanwar, Chairman of the India Chapter, stated that, “As we start the second cycle of BRICS Business Council, we need to build on to the work done in the first five years. Our first cycle has been a valuable learning curve, wherein we have exchanged various ideas, deliberated intensively on each of them under different working groups and have reached consensus on several of these, which are now under the implementation stage. Our second cycle must take all the pending ideas to their conclusion and focus on implementation through practical co-operation. We can then truly showcase the success of this co-operative mechanism.”
Captain Xu Lirong, the Chinese Chapter Chairman said that the focus areas for the Council moving forward are implementation of the MOU with the NDB, substantive cooperation in the working groups, especially on regional aviation and digital economy, and alleviation of administrative barriers to trade and investment. He encouraged more companies to start dialogues and cooperation through the platform offered by the Council, and invited BRICS businesses to participate in the first China International Import Expo, to be held on November 5-10, 2018, in Shanghai.