Your Excellency, President Vladímir Putin,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi,
Your Excellency, President Xi Jinping,
Your Excellency, President Jair Bolsonaro,
Ministers and Officials,
We are meeting at a time of global crisis; a time that calls for cooperation and dialogue between the nations of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged economies and devastated livelihoods across the world.
The disease has put immense strain on public health systems, and significant resources have had to be redirected to containing the spread of the virus. Trade and investment has been disrupted, as has global supply and demand. For emerging economies already facing challenges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, the pandemic has taken an even greater toll.
As BRICS countries, we are called upon to unite, to demonstrate our collective will and to provide leadership. This pandemic has taught us the necessity of strengthening health systems and being prepared for future emergencies of this nature and scale. It has shown us the importance of investing in science, technology and innovation.
Above all, it has taught us that international solidarity must pave the way to stability, security and economic growth. In this regard, I wish to commend the Russian Federation for its leadership of BRICS during this challenging time.
As South Africa and the African continent more broadly, we are grateful for the solidarity we have received from our BRICS partners, both through bilateral assistance and support for our continental response. While African leaders acted swiftly to contain the disease, it will take a long time for our economies to recover.
We therefore endorse the call made by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for a New Global Deal. This includes a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, the reform of debt architecture and greater access to affordable credit for developing countries.
In the spirit of this New Global Deal we call on the international community and our BRICS partners to support a comprehensive stimulus package for African countries. This will enable African countries to contain the disease and rebuild our damaged economies.
The New Development Bank has a significant role to play. To date, the Bank has approved $4 billion of COVID-related emergency assistance projects, including $1 billion to South Africa to support our health response and social relief measures. We welcome the indications from the New Development Bank that it aims to provide up to $10 billion in crisis-related assistance and to support economic recovery efforts.
We further welcome the commitment by our Health Ministers to promote access to affordable, quality medicines and to make diagnostic tools available within BRICS countries. South Africa is participating in several research initiatives with continental and international partners, including the global effort to develop, manufacture and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. The current experience demonstrates the need to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre in South Africa, as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration.
We support the initiative to establish an integrated early warning System for preventing mass infectious diseases, and believe this is a project that could be supported by the New Development Bank. Investing in science, technology and innovation will not only prepare us for future health emergencies, but it will also enable us to confront other global challenges.
Our ministries responsible for science and their funding agencies should be commended for the speed and efficiency with which they mobilised the capacities of our BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Framework Programme in their response to COVID-19. We should step up cooperation in this area to support the recovery effort.
Since restoring our economies to good health is a goal common to us all, it is timely that we are undertaking a review of the BRICS Strategy for Economic Partnership 2025. We remain committed to achieving sustainable development in BRICS and to the creation of opportunities for all. To fast-track our economic recovery, trade and investment ties between BRICS countries must be strengthened.
The pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of an over dependence on fragile global supply chains even for basic foods and essential medical products. As African countries it has shown us the need to build more resilient national and regional supply-chains to enable the continent to respond more effectively to such crises in future. This week South Africa will host its third Investment Conference.
It is a platform to share with investors the progress we have made in economic reforms and to showcase our country’s potential as an investment destination. A central pillar of our national recovery is to diversify and upgrade our industrial capacity, supporting the wider processes of industrialisation across Africa. We call on our BRICS partners to ramp up investment in not just South Africa but across the continent, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Investors from the BRIC countries will realise considerable benefits by investing in Africa, particularly with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area from January 2021.
It is clear from this pandemic, that we must strengthen multilateralism as the preferred means to advance our mutual interests. We reiterate our call for reform of the UN Security Council to ensure that it is more representative and inclusive, in line with the principle of the sovereign equality of all states.
We need to ensure that trade rules take the interests of developing countries into account, particularly with respect to development through industrialisation. Reform of the World Trade Organisation is therefore key to rebalancing the global trading system and ensuring that its benefits are shared more equitably.
As we resolved in the 2019 Brasilia Declaration, we must continue to collaborate through the BRICS partnership to address the problem of under-invoicing, which has a profound impact on our industrial development and employment goals.
Since its founding, BRICS has stood as a testament to the power of solidarity. Our meeting today – in the midst of economic and social turmoil – is evidence that our partnership is strong and enduring. Working together, let us continue our onward march towards shared peace, security and prosperity, not only for our respective countries, but for all of humanity.
I thank you.