BRICS Africa – A boost for Tourism

The fifth Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) summit, which ended in Durban on March 27, resulted in several significant agreements, including the creation of a BRICS Business Council. However, the real benefit to the country from a tourism perspective lies in the global media exposure afforded through hosting the event, writes Des Langkilde.

Commenting on the BRICS Summit, Michael Tatalias, CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) said that South Africa and the region as a destination received extensive media coverage and cemented South Africa’s reputation as a host of large events and conferences. “With the run of bad news of late (from Marikana to Nkandla to Oscar Pistorius), we have needed some balancing good news. I trust and hope that the external marketing agencies – Brand South Africa, DIRCO, SA Tourism – all use the exposure and leverage it a bit further to keep the positive shine on our destination”.

“Personally, I had hoped to see more useful outputs from BRICS, aside from the proposed development bank, along the lines of increased focus on improving air and sea routes between the BRICS countries themselves and fellow developing countries. With improved air links comes the benefit of increased trade and tourism – exactly what is needed to achieve the intentions of BRICS to restructure the flow of business away from that dominated by the western world. Maybe we can continue to drive this discussion in the remainder of the year that SA sits as the chair of the BRICS process” concluded Tatalias.

South African mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe was named chairman of the newly formed BRICS Business Council. The BRICS countries have each nominated five business leaders to make up the council. The four other South Africans who will serve on the body are Business Unity SA CEO Nomaxabiso Majokweni, Zungu Investment Company executive chairman Sandile Zungu, Sekunjalo Investments CEO Iqbal Surve, and Transnet CEO Brian Molefe.

The Durban International Convention Centre hosted the event in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. “The Summit is an important opportunity to strengthen ties with our partners in the BRICS bloc and to build on existing trade relations” commented Julie-May Ellingson, CEO of the Durban ICC. “The event was also an excellent opportunity to showcase our capabilities as an award-winning international convention centre. The Durban ICC is well suited for events of this nature and we have successfully hosted many complex events for heads of state and othe high profile delegations.” added Ellingson.

Leaders of the BRICS nations in attendance, namely President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Russian President Vladimir Putin, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Xi Jinping of China and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma met to discuss a multitude of issues — from the traditional discussion on restructuring the global economy, to undertaking real actions on the project to establish a BRICS development bank. Yet not all of the issues on the agenda resulted in agreements.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa. Image courtesy of Durban ICC.

The disputes over the bank relate to what it would do and how it would provide an equitable return on the initial investment of about US$10bn.

Despite the statement by South African President Jacob Zuma that, “We instructed finance ministers to look into this matter and are ready to launch the bank,” the BRICS bank project seems as far as ever from being launched.

The member states cannot agree on the location of the bank (each state would like to host it), the membership fees and the projects to be financed by the joint bank (either exclusively BRICS projects or third-party projects as well).

Leonid Gusev, an expert at the Institute for International Studies of Moscow State University, doubts that a BRICS bank can be effective at this stage. “BRICS consists of the economic heavyweights, such as China and India, but the Chinese economy is so closely integrated with that of America that they almost have a common market. The same holds for India, so it is highly unlikely that these ties will be broken,” said Gusev. “Everything will depend on the developments in the U.S. and the eurozone,” he added.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, mentioned the club phenomenon when commenting on the current status of BRICS and the fifth summit. “It is a community where there should be no specific goals,” he said. “Its existence and frequent meetings are the essence of the bloc. The very existence of BRICS and its format suit the objectives and approaches of Russia’s foreign policy — not against but bypassing the West.

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