The 10th BRICS summit, which concluded on Friday in Johannesburg was a festival of bilaterals, said President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“The BRICS is a gathering of countries and when we include the non- members through the BRICS Outreach session and the BRICS Plus- it is like a festival of bilaterals where many participants were able to hold bilaterals which enhanced the discussions,” President Ramaphosa told the media at the conclusion of the summit.
A total of 21 heads of states mainly from Africa attended the BRICS Outreach Dialogue and the BRICS Plus sessions at the invitation of BRICS leaders.
Regions and organisations invited to the sessions included the African Union, East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); the Southern African Development Community (SADC); Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), South Africa and influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) , the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) who interacted with the five BRIC leaders.
The bilaterals, President Ramaphosa noted, opened the path for increased engagement, cooperation and allowed for greater interaction notably for the development and economic growth through trade and investment integration, and cooperation in global governance financial, economic and political institutions for the different regions which were represented.
This was particularly important for the African continent as Pretoria was using the BRICS union to leverage for the collective development of the continent.
President Ramaphosa said all countries and regions which were invited felt welcomed as they were able to network with various BRICS countries for the benefit of their national and regional agendas.
“For example, we had a retreat where we were able to have a heart to heart discussions of a number of issues. Such interactions enhance personal relationships among us as leaders and also help form good and strong foundation for countries to continue cooperating at many levels.
“This then becomes a firm foundation that enables us to cooperate better at a cultural level, people to people level, at a political and diplomatic level as well as the economic and trading levels. We could not ask for a better association than this BRICS summit,” the president said.
South Africa held bilateral meetings with all BRICS member states as well as with other invited countries such as Turkey, Togo and Zimbabwe, among others.
In his discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Ramaphosa said the two leaders took stock of the progress of their cooperation.
Trade between South Africa and Russia increased significantly from R5 billion in 2012 to almost R8 billion in 2016 with major South African exports including fruits and nuts, manganese ores, beverages, spirits and vinegar, wine, electrical machinery and equipment
“We found that level and the number of areas in which we collaborate on which Russia is quite extensive and it concludes investments in mining, equipment making and there is a desire to take it further and collaborate in the truck manufacturing sector.”
But it was the issue of the nuclear deal that also topped their discussions as the Russians wanted to know where the country was in terms of the nuclear programme.
President Ramaphosa indicated that he gave President Putin a clear and straightforward answer which reiterated government’s position that South Africa has an energy mix for the country’s resource plan.
South Africa’s approved Integrated Resource Plan of 2010-30 provides for coal, gas, renewables and 9600 megawatts nuclear as part of the energy landscape by 2030.
Currently, nuclear constitutes about 6% of the South African energy mix with 1 800 megawatts of electricity supplied to the national grid by the Koeberg nuclear plant.
Meanwhile, the summit saw the adoption of the Johannesburg Declaration, which among others, supported an open and inclusive multilateral trading system.
The leaders also found common ground in championing global trade, condemning protectionist measures, the fight again terrorism, intra BRICS trade and fighting climate change.