Role of BRICS in Africa’s Development: Common Synergies & Complementarities

Dr. Suresh Kumar

Diplomatist, March 2013.


This paper was discussed at 112th International Training Programme on Financial and Regularity Audit, 25 February 2013, organized by International Centre Training Centre of Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Noida, UGC Centre of Brazil and South African Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh on 12 February 2013 and International Conference on BRICS: A Strategic Alliance for Global Trade Organised by BRICS Chambers of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi in partnership with FORE School of Management, New Delhi on 22 March 2013 . This is the revised version for the publication.
The synergies and complementarities among BRICS member-states and African countries are focusing on the BRICS role in Africa’s development. It defines how an integrated partnership between the BRICS nations and Africa can lead to sustainable economic development by regional integration. The industrialisation projects should achieve a mutually beneficial outcome for BRICS and the African continent. Africa’s growth rate of the past decade shows the enormous potential nurturing the immense consumer base. The export opportunities will be immense once they reach a certain level of development. The growth rate that Africa has attained is more than the result of the resource boom and is promising diverse long term growth amongst these countries.
Africa is facing several challenges including lack of infrastructure (Rail, Road, Marine and ICT) & logistics, lack of finance and skill development. Infrastructure plays a key role in economic growth and poverty reduction. Conversely, the lack of infrastructure affects productivity and raises production and transaction costs, which hinders growth by reducing the competitiveness of businesses and the ability of governments to pursue economic and social development policies. The deficient infrastructure in Africa has undermined the growth by more than 2% a year, which has become a continental challenge. This challenge will be overcome by requiring the finance of billions of dollar and it poses a question before us: who will finance it? The BRICS should put this issue before the member countries to initiate the appropriate policies and involve the private sector for infrastructure development in Africa. It is the time to assess how the private sector is responding towards it and is working under the concept of BRICS.
Infrastructure development in Africa will benefit mining, oil exploration and other sector. This makes Africa an attractive destination for BRICS investors. For instance, the oil and gas exploration in east Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda) is the biggest source on the globe but lack of infrastructure (road, rail, pipeline, refineries, seashore collection centers and seashore oil depot enrouté to concerned countries) in the region is the major obstacle. BRICS countries can take this initiative (Resolution of COP 17) to develop the infrastructure and exploration in the region and strengthen the real objective of South-South cooperation.
The BRICS individual member countries are working to enhance the agriculture sector in Africa. The BRICS needs to address a common policy for the development of agriculture sector in Africa that will take care of the lack of access to market, capacitating small scale farmers to work for collective farming and developing PPP opportunities in this sector.
BRICS in Africa should work for transfer of technology and raise funds for green economy and clean energy to meet the climate change challenge. The use of biofuels (used in Brazil through Jatropa plantation) along with the oil exploration will explore the possibility of developing barren land into agriculture in Africa. It is the time to discuss the common concern and mutual understanding on different issues to meet the challenges of the economic crisis of 2009 and strengthen South-South cooperation.


The post 1990 world has undergone major and swift changes that highlight the need for corresponding transformations in global governance in all relevant areas. BRICS represents 43% of the world’s population and 18% of global trade. Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America adds to its transcontinental value and significance. The BRIC came to existence at the beginning of the international financial crisis of 2009 with the objective to change the world economy and register the representation of developing countries in the reform of the international financial institutions including the World Bank and the IMF. BRICS supports the increase of capital, under the principle of fair burden-sharing, of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and of the International Finance Corporation, in addition to more robust, flexible and agile client-driven support for African economies from multilateral development banks. The argument behind this reform is to address the rising market demand and building a strong economic architecture of the developing world. It is felt that emerging market economies of Africa have the potential to mitigate this financial crisis and can play an even larger and active role as engines of economic growth and prosperity on the globe. BRICS commits to work together with Africa towards reducing imbalances in global economic development and fostering social inclusion.
Post 1990, a number of African countries had accepted the electoral politics and strengthened democratic set up for people’s welfare and planning for sustainable economic development. Africa supports a multipolar, equitable and democratic world order, based on international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all States. The regional organizations of Africa such as COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS, SACU and SADC put forward their vision of supporting elected leaders democratically and reinforce it to all member-states. The BRICS Leader’s summit held in New Delhi in March 2012 has already emphasized on a larger role for the congregation on the issues pertinent to governance and political coherence. BRICS during the third summit of 2011 declared, “Based on universally recognized norms of international law and in a spirit of mutual respect and collective decision making, global economic governance should be strengthened, democracy in international relations should be promoted, and the voice of emerging and developing countries in international affairs should be enhanced.” BRICS supported this change in Africa and support rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states. The regional organizations and the Africa Union (AU) condemn international terrorism and supported BRICS voice on all the international platforms including the UN General Assembly.
Africa has opened its markets to attract the international trade and foreign direct investments.  BRIC was formed to work as per the WTO’s Doha Development and reinforce multilateral trading system in the developing world on the one hand and to implement the commitment of developed countries to spare 0.7% of Gross National Income for the Official Development Assistance. BRIC decided to put efforts in increasing assistance, debt relief, market access and transfer of technology for developing countries. Further, these efforts of BRICS will strengthen developing countries position in implementation of the Rio Declaration, Agenda for the 21st Century and multilateral environmental agreements. The issue of transfer of technology for African countries is an indicator for long term paradigm of economic development. Africa has tremendous source of energy (oil, hydrocarbon & gas) and BRICS has decided to coordinate and cooperate in digging their natural resources to ensure stability and sustainability.  BRICS keen to support diversification of energy resources and supply, including renewable energy, security of energy transit routes and creation of new energy investments and infrastructure in Africa. The forthcoming BRICS summit, scheduled in South Africa on 26-27 March 2013, carries the theme BRICS and AFRICA: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization.

BRICS-Africa Partnership for Development
The common feeling of partnership is felt on both sides but it is emphasized on mutual partnership.  Africa has dominant number in the General Assembly of the UNO and BRICS needs full support from African continent on different issues. The common issue for BRICS-Africa is the understanding of commitment to multilateral diplomacy with the UN playing the central role in dealing with global challenges and threats. BRICS-Africa needs a comprehensive reform of the UN including the restructure of Security Council, with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative so that it can deal with today’s global challenges more successfully. BRICS-Africa reiterates the importance of India and Brazil in international affairs, and understands and supports their aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations. China and Russia during the 3rd and 4th Summits of 2011 & 2012 had reiterated the importance they attach to the status of India, Brazil and South Africa in international affairs, and understand and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN. BRICS-Africa partnership serves the common interests of emerging market economies and building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. BRICS initiates the process of development in Africa through the UN Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). BRICS minimizes the consequences of the financial crisis in Africa and strengthening the MDGs through technical cooperation and financial support in implementation of development policies and social protection for African community. BRICS supports the technical cooperation in different areas to African countries. BRICS equally emphasizes during the 4th Summit of 2012 and reiterated that they be met against the backdrop of developments and changes of contemporary global and regional importance – a faltering global recovery made more complex by the situation in the euro zone; concerns of sustainable development and climate change which take on greater relevance as BRICS approach the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and the Convention on Biological Diversity hosted in Brazil and India respectively and the developing political scenario in the Middle East and North Africa are viewed with increasing concern. BRICS reflected its consensus to remain engaged with the world community addressing the challenges of global well-being and stability in a responsible and constructive manner. This paper discusses the possibility of BRICS engagements to develop the bond of integrated partnership in Africa, which will lead to sustainable economic development and bring common synergies and complementarities.

  1. African Challenge about Infrastructure & Logistics, Lack of Finance and Skill Development

BRICS serves as a major platform for mutual cooperation in the infrastructure & logistics, financial and development fields including the training of skill development. BRICS initiates its engagement and cooperation with African countries through their regional organizations. China, India and Brazil strengthen the Africa partnership for common development and may act as catalyst for the advance BRICS cooperation in a gradual and pragmatic manner, reflecting the principles of openness, solidarity and mutual assistance. BRICS declared infrastructure development in Africa and its industrialization within framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in the 3rd Summit of 2011. Ian Taylor writes, “The New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) offers a platform to South Africa to lead Africa out of its present under-development and political chaos— continentally promoting the agenda of economic liberalization while keeping control of the African geo-politics.” Further, BRICS has considered the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank for mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries, to supplement the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development and set up a joint working group for further study, and report back in the coming 5th Durban Summit of March 2013.

  1. African Agriculture and Poverty Alleviation

Africa agriculture system today believes that there is a need to strengthen coordination and cooperation with BRICS member states to improve food productivity while ensuring domestic food security and generation of income and jobs in rural areas. Africa is looking towards BRICS member states for comprehensive food productivity of farmers including smallholders by relying on scientific research and technology transfer, creating favorable environment for investment and sustainable utilization of agricultural resources, and promoting agricultural products trade to improve food access.
The meeting of Ministers of Agriculture and Agrarian Development of BRICS member-states had discussed ways of promoting quadripartite cooperation, with particular attention to family farming. The Ministers have shown their capacities in strengthening global agriculture sector and are convinced to contribute towards Africa food production and food security. BRICS decided to create an agricultural information base system of the member-states, to develop a strategy for ensuring access to food for vulnerable population, to reduce the negative impact of climate change on food security and to enhance agriculture technology cooperation and innovation. Further, there is a need to accelerate growth and sustainable development along with food and energy security, which are amongst the most important challenges facing Africa today and central to addressing economic development, eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition in many African countries. Creating jobs needed to improve people’s living standards in Africa is essential. Africa possesses 25% of young human resource potential that needs technical training in different sectors including mechanical agriculture system. BRICS member-states are already involved in providing training to this human resource in individual capacity and there is a need to develop this pattern on the organizational level. ‘Agriculture is a strategic sector with a close bearing on social stability. As emerging economies, BRICS fully understand the concerns of African countries over food security, and sympathize with their afflictions in this respect, particularly the sufferings of the Horn of Africa from the most serious draught and food deficit in the past 6 decades. BRICS actively supports the global endeavor to combat hunger, and call on the international community to make all efforts to further enhance aid, and supports the United Nations in playing a coordinating role in preventing further deterioration of the crisis, especially through the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security (CSF). Meanwhile, BRICS is committed to making best efforts to help African countries improve their food production capacity so as to enhance food security, particularly among smallholder farmers, through technical cooperation, policy dialogue, agricultural technology demonstration and transfer, personnel training, agricultural infrastructure construction and food aid, among others’ (Chengdu, China, October 30, 2011). BRICS further emphasizes that the cooperation between member-states is inclusive by nature. It will actively enhance the coordination and cooperation with African countries in the field of agriculture jointly striving for the reduction of poverty-stricken population with a view to realizing the UN MDGs and promoting world stability, prosperity and development. It holds the view that, despite differences among BRICS countries and varied characteristics of its agricultural sectors, there are complementarities among them. Therefore, the enhancement of agricultural cooperation among BRICS countries is of great significance for ensuring African food security and sustainable agricultural development, eradicating poverty and achieving the UN MDGs.
BRICS calls upon the international community to make all the necessary efforts to fight poverty, social exclusion and inequality bearing in mind the special needs of developing countries, especially LDCs, small islands and African Countries. It supports technical and financial cooperation as means to contribute to the achievement of sustainable social development, with social protection, full employment, and decent work policies and programmes, giving special attention to the most vulnerable groups, such as the poor, women, youth, migrants and persons with disabilities.

BRICS Agriculture ACTION PLAN 2012-2016
This action plan focuses on the creation of agricultural information base system, development of a general strategy for ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable population, reduction of negative impact of climate change on food security and adaptation of agriculture to climate change and enhances agricultural technology cooperation and innovation. BRICS countries shall share/arrange/mobilize financial resources to cover the cost of all the cooperation activities such as:

  1. Creation of basic agricultural information exchange system of BRICS countries (coordinated by China in collaboration with other four countries),
  2. Development of a general strategy for ensuring access to food for the most vulnerable population (coordinated by Brazil in collaboration with other four countries)
  3. Reduction of negative impact of climate change on food security and adaptation of agriculture to climate change (coordinated by South Africa in collaboration with other four countries)
  4. Enhance agricultural technology cooperation and innovation (coordinated by India in collaboration with other four countries)
  5. Trade and investment promotion (coordinated by Russia in collaboration with other four countries)
  1. BRICS and Potential of Africa Energy Resources

BRICS recognizes the oil, gas and hydrocarbon potential resources of Africa and feels that access to energy is of paramount importance to economic growth with equity and social inclusion. BRICS provides a cleaner, more affordable and sustainable energy systems, to promote access to energy and energy efficient technologies and transfer of technology to African countries. BRICS aims to diversify Africa’s energy mix by increasing the contribution of renewable energy sources, and will encourage the cleaner, more efficient use of fossil fuels and other fuels. BRICS supports African countries to the international cooperation in the field of energy efficiency. The production and use of biofuels technology (especially in Brazil) will be shared with the Africa to facilitate the use of renewable energy including biofuels training, R&D, Consultancy services and technology transfer.
The BRICS 3rd Summit recognized the important role of renewable energy as a means to address climate change. Nuclear energy will continue to be an important element in future energy mix of BRICS countries. International cooperation in the development of safe nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in Africa should proceed under conditions of strict observance of relevant safety standards and requirements concerning design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants.

  1. BRICS and Issue of Climate Change

BRICS and Africa commit to promote the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol to achieve a comprehensive, balanced and binding result. Both of them believe that the Convention and the Protocol provide the framework for international negotiations on climate change. It should be fair and effective in addressing the challenge of climate change, especially the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. Both believe in playing their part in the global fight against climate change and will contribute to the global effort in dealing with climate change issues through sustainable and inclusive growth and not by capping development. Both emphasize that developed country should be parties to the UNFCCC shall provide enhanced financial, technology and capacity building support for the preparation and implementation of nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. The bio-energy is environment-friendly and renewable in nature. BRICS agrees to develop bio-energy while ensuring food security by giving consideration to the factors of energy demand, environmental protection and sustainable development. BRICS takes note of FAO’s analytical framework of Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS), as one of the instruments that may play a role in assisting the development of national bio-energy policy compatible with the national strategies of poverty reduction, rural development, local energy and food security. BRICS further acknowledges the importance of R&D on advanced new processes for the production of bio-fuels and the use of new, non-food and other plant raw materials for bio-fuel production as well as energy efficiency. Africa supports this stand of BRICS in developing their agriculture sector for food security and use their barren-land for the cultivation of Jatropa, a bio-fuel plant. Africa is looking towards BRICS advance sustainable agriculture technology to achieve the sustainable use of natural resources, land, water resources, and bio-diversity in particular. Africa recognizes the advance scientific innovations of BRICS in the field of biotechnology in bolstering sustainable agriculture and food processing industry. When properly combined with other technologies and the traditional knowledge in food and agricultural production, biotechnology can greatly contribute to meeting the demand of the ever growing and urbanized population. Africa needs to strengthen this technology and should be ready to work with BRICS exchange and cooperation in the biotechnology sector. Africa needs to develop the exchange program of agricultural human resources to BRICS countries, establishing research and development centers and joint laboratories, initiating joint research projects, and adopting joint graduate and post-graduate programs in agricultural research. It will develop Africa’s human resources that excel in modern agricultural technologies, contributing to technology advances and agricultural development across the world. BRICS agrees to establish the BRICS Strategic Alliance for Agricultural Research and Technology Cooperation pool to address major challenges faced by the developing countries including Africa in agricultural technologies. BRICS Action Plan 2012-2016 for Agricultural Cooperation is meant to address these issues of climate change as well.

  1. Issue of International Terrorism

African Union and BRICS condemn terrorist acts in all forms and manifestations. Both notes that the fight against international terrorism must be undertaken with due respect to the UN Charter, existing international conventions and protocols, the UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions relating to international terrorism, and that the prevention of terrorist acts is as important as the repression of terrorism and its financing. In this context, both urge early conclusion of negotiations in the UN General Assembly of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and its adoption by all Member States. BRICS is equally concerned with the recent terrorist activities in Mali and Algeria and showed their solidarity with the international community.

BRICS commits to MDGs as a core strategy in the international fight against underdevelopment, hunger and poverty. South-South cooperation is an essential and fundamental component of international cooperation for development, especially in terms of global, regional and country-level efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. BRICS is an open-ended forum working as an instrument for addressing the political and economic issues of developing countries within itself and with the developed countries. BRICS-Africa builds on the common colonial backgrounds, the common cultural and ethnic lineages, relatively large and diversified economies, structural problems of poverty & inequalities and the socialistic background of the present political dispensations in all the five countries. Brazil has the largest black population outside the African continent and second largest in the world after Nigeria. India is tied strongly to the African liberation struggle through Non Aligned Movement and South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and also having African Diaspora. India, China and South Africa are close neighbour across Indian Ocean. Brazil is one of the closest neighbours of South Africa west of Atlantic. BRICS countries together hold immense assurance- a market of 2.5 billion people, a US $ 2.2 trillion domestic market, and foreign trade of US $ 600 billion. BRICS is having vast potential to establish rule-based market system in international economy. Along with it, the common problems existing in BRICS member states are poverty and inequality, which can be curbed through safeguard of agricultural and industrial interests on priority. The cooperation among BRICS states is moving from bilateral to trilateral agreements in specific areas of economy, technology, defence, space and civilian nuclear energy.
Overall, BRICS-Africa is having common concern and mutual understanding on different issues and will play an affirmative role to overcome the economic crisis of 2009 and strengthen South-South cooperation on mutual basis.