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South Africa unlocks gateway to continent

Updated: 2011-04-15 07:38
By Qin Jize ( China Daily)

Sanya, Hainan - South Africa has become a gateway to the African continent for other countries in the BRICS bloc of developing economies.

"We support infrastructure development in Africa and its industrialization," said a declaration from the five countries -- China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.

South Africa's inclusion for the first time at Thursday's summit signifies an important evolution of BRICS into a mechanism covering Asia, Africa, Europe and America, further enhancing its representation and voice.

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Africa needs $480 billion for infrastructure development over the next 10 years, which will attract the interests of the BRICS business communities, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.

"Already, Africa is projected as the third-fastest growing economy in the world, while the BRICS countries now constitute the largest trading partners of Africa and largest new investors," Zuma was quoted by the Independent Newspaper in South Africa as saying at the summit.

"This economic relationship will be further strengthened as Africa forges ahead towards regional economic integration. This move will open up opportunities for more foreign direct investment and expand trade relations with BRICS countries," he said.

Zuma later told a press conference that South Africa leads the continent in terms of mineral and industrial output, electricity generation, infrastructure, sophisticated financial markets and service industries.

BRICS partners are the largest trade partners of both Africa and South Africa, he noted.

Dr Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory, a Johannesburg-based advisory firm focusing on global emerging markets, said in an interview with South Africa media that he was convinced that BRICS collaboration would further encourage inter-country trade.

"I strongly believe that our economic relationships with India and Brazil are way below what they could be," he said.

Intangible benefits could also be brought to South Africa by BRICS cooperation, such as economic growth strategies from Brazil and China.

South Africa's economy may be small, but "it has the corporate muscle to compete with other economies in BRICS", Davies said.

According to Davies, South Africa's global corporate power puts it on an equal footing with the other members as it very possibly has more international companies than Brazil, Russia and India.

South Africa officially joined BRICS last December as the bloc offers a big market for the country's goods and services to implement its development plan.

Li Xing and Li Lianxing contributed to this story.