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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

BRICS provides choices for Africa: Zuma

July 7, 2015, 5:26 am

File photo of BRICS leaders at the Durban Summit in South Africa [GCIS]
File photo of BRICS leaders at the Durban Summit in South Africa [GCIS]
The BRICS bloc and their new financial instruments are providing choices for the African continent, said President Jacob Zuma on Monday.

In an interview to a Russian state broadcaster, Zuma said, “we now have a bank that is an alternative”.
Lending from existing global multilateral lenders like the World Bank and the IMF comes with “too many strings attached”, Zuma said.
“They don’t give you and say: “Fine, do what will help you.” – They want to dictate as well what is it that you should do and this is a problem. You can’t utilize that kind of assistance the way you want. So, in a sense, it has conditions that will keep you dependent all of the time,” Zuma told Russia Today on Monday.
“We believe that an alternative bank – like BRICS – does provide an opportunity for us to have a bank that can you deal with at a level in which you satisfied with, so we’re not looked down upon, and people were saying: “Yes, let us do business”. We are not saying: “Look, after all, you are a former subject, you know. We’ll tell you how to do business” – we don’t want that…I am saying now, that there’s an alternative, you can make a choice,” he added.
BRICS trade with the African continent has grown considerably while China’s march on the region has been fast and furious.
China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about $160 billion-worth of goods a year.
The Chinese government has now prioritized infrastructural development in Africa, which resonates with many African policymakers struggling to identify ways to finance the construction of badly needed roads, ports, bridges and railways. Critics of China, however, accuse the country of harbouring neo-colonial designs for the continent.
US President Barack Obama took a swipe at China at a summit of African leaders in August last year, claiming that the US is interested in the continent for more than just its minerals and oil.
Beijing hit back at Obama’s dig, saying the US needs to reconsider its attitude to Chinese investment in Africa.
“We hope the United States, the largest developed country in the world, can play a greater role in supporting the development of African nations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, urging Washington to be “objective” and “rational” about China’s engagement with Africa.
China overtook the United States as Africa’s biggest trade partner in 2009.
China has built roads, railways, stadiums and pipelines in the continent even as it gained access to Africa’s oil and minerals.
In July last year, China said more than half its foreign aid, of more than $14 billion between 2010 and 2012, went to Africa.
Historically, Sino-African ties have also been strengthened by the fact that Beijing backed African liberation movements fighting to throw off Western colonial rule.
During his Africa trip earlier last year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang unveiled extra aid for Africa totaling $12 billion.
Meanwhile, Zuma will travel to Ufa to attend the 7th BRICS Leaders Summit where he will also hold bilateral talks with Presidents Vladimir Putin, Dilma Rousseff, Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi.
Brazil, Russia, India and China began working on establishing the bloc in 2006 but it wasn’t until the first BRIC summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia that the organization began to show promise of being a global player.
South Africa joined the group in 2010.
This year’s summit will be hosted in the city of Ufa, Russia July 8-9.
The BRICS countries make up about 40% of the world’s population and a combined economy of about $16 trillion.
The BRICS countries have announced a new BRICS Bank and a $100 billion currency reserve fund, institutions that are expected to rival the World Bank and the IMF in the near future.
The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the first new multilateral development lender in decades has also won support from governments around the world, some of them prominent US allies like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia among others.
The headquarters of the BRICS Bank and AIIB will be in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Beijing respectively.
The five emerging economies are also looking at creating a new Energy Alliance and a BRICS rating network to counterbalance the Big 3- Moody’s, Fitch and S&P, which together account for a 90 per cent share of the ratings market.
“BRICS is also a centre of gravity for those who think the same way and favour a more just system of international relations, including economic ties,” Lavrov added.
Russia has hosted BRICS civil and academic forums in the run-up to the Leaders Summit on 8-9 July in Ufa.
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