Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the BRICS Business Forum Leaders’ Dialogue, 22 August 2023

Your Excellency, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva,

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

Ministers and Officials,

Business Leaders,



It is a great honour to participate in this Leaders’ Session of the BRICS Business Forum.


I thank you all for your attendance and participation.


The BRICS group of countries exists not only to strengthen government-to-government relations, but also to forge stronger ties between the peoples of our five nations. It is for this reason that several bodies have been established to enable cooperation across society.


The BRICS Business Council is a vital and vibrant platform for strengthening economic ties between our respective countries and in forging common perspectives on inclusive economic growth and development.


The changes that have taken place in BRICS economies over the past decade have done much to transform the shape of the global economy.


Together, the BRICS countries make up a quarter of the global economy, they account for a fifth of global trade and are home to more than 40 percent of the world’s population.


As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of BRICS, trade between BRICS countries totalled some $162 billion last year.


Foreign investment has played an important role in the growth of BRICS economies.


Total annual foreign direct investment into BRICS countries is four times greater than it was 20 years ago.


However, the new wave of protectionism and the subsequent impact of unilateral measures that are incompatible with WTO rules undermine global economic growth and development.


We therefore need to reaffirm our position that economic growth must be underpinned by transparency and inclusiveness. It must be compatible with a multilateral trading system that supports a developmental agenda.


We require a fundamental reform of the global financial institutions so that they can be more agile and responsive to the challenges facing developing economies.


In this respect, the New Development Bank, established by BRICS countries in 2015, is leading the way. Since its formation it has demonstrated its ability to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development in emerging economies without conditionalities.


BRICS economies have emerged as powerful engines of global growth.


Yet the rapid economic, technological and social changes underway create new risks for employment, equality and poverty in many BRICS countries.


We therefore call on the business community to join hands with us to identify solutions to these and other challenges affecting our respective economies.


From a South African perspective, there is massive untapped potential for investment in our country and on the African continent.


In recognition of this potential, the theme for this XV BRICS Summit is:


‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism’.


Africa is a continent of great opportunity in the industrialisation process in a variety of sectors.


Africa is a continent rich in the critical minerals that will drive business success in the 21st Century.


The continent has resources of lithium, vanadium, cobalt, platinum, palladium, nickel, copper, rare earth minerals, rhodium and many others.


African countries have made it clear that the investors of choice are those who will process the resources here, close to source.


We are developing stronger regional value-chains that will connect a number of African countries, providing investors with diversity, strength and resilience.


The African Continental Free Trade Area creates a single market that is expected to grow to 1.7 billion people and nearly $7 trillion in consumer and business spending by 2030.


The success of the African Continental Free Trade Area will require a massive investment in infrastructure. We need to mobilise the substantial financing needed to build the roads, ports, rail, energy and telecommunications networks that will enable industrialisation and trade.


Growth in African economies will be driven in the main by small and medium enterprises. This requires focused and effective support to these businesses. It is important that specific financing be directed to women-owned businesses so that they can harness the benefits of the continental free trade area.


Africa has a young, digitally connected and urbanising population, which provides a stable workforce for companies in future. The investment in skills development is growing.


These factors all position Africa as the next frontier of productivity and growth.


BRICS countries have an opportunity to contribute to and participate in Africa’s growth story. This can be achieved through greater cooperation in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, new energy and the digital economy.


South Africa has an important position in this growing African market, facilitated by the African Continental Free Trade Area and other free trade agreements.


South Africa’s industrial strength, our mineral endowments and our large market opportunities provide a compelling value-proposition for companies wanting to establish their businesses here.


South Africa has significant industrial capacity, with Africa’s most advanced industrial innovation and fabrication base.


Firms that have invested here recognise that South Africa has deep local capital markets and strong financial systems. We have a diverse and sophisticated economy.


South Africa possesses world-class infrastructure, skills, abundant natural resources, industrial clusters and a host of incentives to support investment.


Many investment and partnership opportunities exist in renewable energy, infrastructure, aquaculture, ICT, automotives, pharmaceuticals and advanced manufacturing, among others.


It is clear from the report that we have received that this has been a most productive Business Forum.


I commend the BRICS Business Council, the respective Ministers and officials and all the business leaders that continue to contribute to this valuable work.


I sincerely hope that your participation in this BRICS Business Forum will yield the productive outcomes required for us to catapult BRICS economies towards more equitable and accelerated growth.


I thank you.