BRICS prepare for their summit in Africa

The leaders of the BRICS countries are going to address problems of the creation of a new development bank and so-called "virtual secretariat" during the next summit in South Africa. Source: AP

The leaders of the BRICS countries are going to address problems of the creation of a new development bank and so-called "virtual secretariat" during the next summit in South Africa. Source: AP

BRICS leaders plan to discuss the creation of a new development bank and a "virtual secretariat" at the upcoming summit in South Africa.

At the fifth BRICS summit — the first to be held on the African continent — the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will discuss the creation of a new development bank and a "virtual secretariat." The hosts of the summit also plan to acquaint the other BRICS members with African issues.

The agenda of the BRICS summit, which will be held on March 26-27 in Durban, South Africa, particularly highlights the mid-February talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his South African counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

One of the known priority issues to be discussed by the leaders of the five-nation club is the creation of a BRICS Development Bank.

At a joint press conference held on Feb. 12, when asked if Russia was in favor of such a structure, Lavrov replied:

"The fact that the idea is being actively framed in preparation for the summit speaks for itself. It is being specifically addressed by the BRICS finance ministers, who will meet in Moscow on Feb. 15, after which there will be more clarity on the matter."

In addition, the leaders of the five countries will use the summit to discuss the creation of a permanent business council and a scientific research center under the BRICS aegis.

Also on the table will be the creation of a so-called virtual secretariat. Most likely, this will be an online resource that hosts materials on BRICS activity and enables officials to correspond with each other on pressing matters.

"The BRICS organization plays a very important role in guaranteeing the interests of each member country and other developing economies, within the framework of reforming the international monetary and financial system," Lavrov said.

"It is my expectation that the documents and agreements being prepared ahead of the Durban summit will allow us to make considerable progress in this direction," Lavrov added. 

He also noted that Russia supports the logic of its South African partners, who plan to brief the other BRICS members on a range of issues that are problematic for Africa as a whole.

Lavrov stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would take part in the summit in Durban.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and BRICS Sherpa, Sergei Ryabkov, told RBTH that the decision to hold the fifth meeting of the organization in South Africa had been made at the previous summit in March 2012, in New Delhi.

"That top-level summit adopted the Delhi Declaration — the main document that unites Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa," Ryabkov said.

"It contains 50 clauses on global stability, security, and prosperity, and a message to the world outlining the organization's commitments. All of them are of fundamental importance as to the reasons and ambitions that lie behind the decision to unite our five emerging economies," he added.

A year ago, observers noted a decision on trade and economic relations that sought to reject the dollar in bilateral trade. In the words of Ryabkov, rejecting the dollar is not yet a viable option. "The task ahead of us is to phase in national currencies in mutual settlements gradually," said the deputy foreign minister.

Speaking to RBTH, Vladimir Davydov, member of the BRICS think tank and director of the Institute of Latin America under the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), said that any talk of serious cooperation between the five nations was still premature.

"On the eve of their fifth summit, I think the BRICS countries have done everything necessary for the first step, but there remains a lot more to do. First of all, it cannot be said that the BRICS countries have managed to define the organization's institutional model," he said.

"Second, there is a lack of clarity regarding the position of the BRICS members in various core institutions of global governance. Third, there has yet to be established a set of mechanisms to regulate multilateral cooperation in the fields of economics, technology, and science," Davydov added.

Furthermore, the BRICS do not see eye-to-eye on everything. For example, some are keen to discuss the issue of reforming the U.N. Security Council, while others are more interested in setting up a development bank.

Yet, despite the wide-ranging agenda, there is a clear dynamic for growth and cooperation. It is in this vein that preparations for the Durban summit are being made.

It is worth noting that, in the midst of preparing for the BRICS summit in South Africa, the U.S. bank Goldman Sachs has announced the departure of 55-year-old economist Jim O'Neill as their chairman of the asset management board.

Twelve years ago, it was O’Neill who came up with BRIC as an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, and China — the world's largest emerging economies.

In addition to its economic significance, the term quickly acquired political meaning: the BRICs shared a sense of commonality that they felt allowed them to compete with the U.S. and the EU.

The Financial Times links O'Neill's departure from Goldman Sachs to his department's recent poor performance.

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