As the summit for BRICS approaches plans are being made as regards to preparing entrepreneurships by searching for what are the country’s best up-and-upcoming tech gurus (Professionals) to represent the country in the BRICS Future Skills Challenge.1 The future skills Olympics for this year will focus on solving problems the BRICS nations face around energy, water and health.2 BRICS being made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are seeking to rear new professionals in this skills challenge set for 12 to 15 September 2023 in Johannesburg.3 With hundreds of participants expected be involved, the BRICS Business Council aims to select 120 individuals from across the country, covering their travel expense.4 Joanne Brink, founder of TechWays and project manager at BRICS Future Skills, emphasized the extensive participating in the challenge.5 She highlighted that the selected individuals would receive training, exposure to real-world case studies, and international experience to enhance their CVs.6 Skill categories in the competitions will include aircraft maintenance, Agri IOT, building information modelling, Cyber Security, data science, digital twin, drones, robotics etc.7
Meanwhile the formation of a BRICS currency has created new questions for South Africa.8
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Volatile times in recent history such as the global financial crisis of 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic and now a war in Europe have amplified calls from some to end or disrupt the place of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a position it has held since after World War 2. In such volatility people turn to the dollar as a trusted store of value and stability, which is a trend seen by detractors as adding to its power and/or influence. Such calls were amplified this week when Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on Brics nations to come up with an alternative to the US dollar for foreign trade. Payi explains that SA finds itself in a difficult place, being part of two trading blocs — Brics and the Africa Free Trade Area — that are each mulling creating their own currencies. SA would therefore have to choose one of these options if it were to commit to a common currency. This is in addition to the myriad of trade and policy challenges that the country would have to consider before making such a move. The Brics countries have come up with a framework for providing protection against global liquidity pressures. This includes currency issues where members’ national currencies are being adversely affected by global financial pressures. Topics of discussion include: what would the establishment of a Brics currency mean for SA; whether the world is ready for such a currency; trade and policy considerations; and disruptions to global trade. (Podcast| Is South Africa ready for a BRICS currency?)
What President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to consider is although South Africa may not be ready for it, a continental currency like the Euro would seem a lot more feasible than a BRICS reserve currency, given the former would be based on a common currency between countries based on different continents with long distances between them. I am lot more skeptical that a BRICS currency can be used for trade given the varying differences between each countries economies, their manufacturing and resources. The BRICS plus has already accepted African countries Egypt and Ethiopia who are still in the process of application. However both are seeking greater ties and integration with in the continent. South Africa likewise is more closely connected with Africa and should focus on building a common currency with its neighbors. BRICS on the other hand even with Saudi Arabia as a member won’t be able to function with such vast distances between them and such varying geography. Also how strong an economy will the desert Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be when the oil runs out?
Meanwhile with South Africa already a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) the country should explain to its partners in BRICS + why it needs to fully commit to that over a “BRICS Currency” which would be closer to being just “international” rather than “regional”. Africa is putting a lot of effort into AfCFTA with the building of infrastructure and South Africa should support it being more closer to home. The BRICS is more of a loose association of emerging economies, whose institution is still young. Brazil for its part is seeking greater integration with South and Central America while China and India are contesting for dominance over Asia. Wait first to see how this summit unfolds.