Independent Media.Dr Iqbal Surve, chairman of Sekunjalo.Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu.
Cape Town – Aligning itself with Brazil, Russia, India, and China had positioned South Africa and the African continent in a position to structure their own futures, said Brics Business Council member Dr Iqbal Surve.
“We are now in a position to structure our own future and be the master of our own destiny,” he said during an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) this week.
Speaking from the Sekunjalo Investment Holdings headquarters in Claremont, Cape Town, Surve discussed how South Africa had made the correct decision in aligning itself with the Brics grouping.
“Today we are part of a major alignment which is necessary for a multi polar world,” he said. “We have the same hopes and aspirations for a better society.”
The Brics 2015 Summit in Ufa, Russia, was, according to Surve, the best outside of South Africa’s in 2013. Achievements made during the Summit and under Russia’s chairmanship had paved the way for the Brics Business Council policy development, launched the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), all for the benefit of future generations.
“This summit was what one could call the tipping point in terms of energy and camaraderie,” said Surve.
As a founding member of the BRICS Business Council, Surve has watched the grouping mature.
“It has crystallised into a very real working relationship and has achieved so much,” he said.
The Business Council, established in Durban in 2013 under South African President Jacob Zuma, brings together business leaders from each member state to assist in managing engagements between business communities and provides a forum for the sharing of information and best practice.
Along with Surve, the South African group include the executive chairman of Zungi, Sandile Zungu, and Eskom’s Brian Molefe.
“The feel of this summit was the members of the business council getting to know one another better,” said Surve.
Furthermore, the Business Council had met in Moscow prior to the summit where they were able to map out policies on issues affecting the various regions. Here, commonalities between member states were apparent.
“The language used throughout the summit was a language familiar to South Africans,” said Surve.
“The type of challenges South Africans are grappling with are generally the same in the other Brics nations. All of the Brics nations – at varying degrees – are struggling with inequality, insufficient infrastructure, and overcoming the triad of unemployment, the skills deficit, and poverty.”
Surve said, in contrast, a conversation with an American investor would not yield the same understanding because of the lack of common challenges and history.
He went on to compare the Business Council to similar groupings within the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying the former had achieved more within its short existence.
However, the aim of the NDB and the Brics grouping was not to replace the likes of the WB and IMF. “It will serve as an accelerator and will drive new growth development,” he said.
Surve said in hindsight, BRICS had defied its critics.
“People thought the Business Council would not be effective and they thought the New Development Bank would never happen. Now it’s a reality.”
He predicted the NDB, currently a $100 billion institution, could easily become a trillion dollar lending facility.
Surve explained that the NDB, which opened its doors in Shangai, China, on Tuesday, would not only benefit the Brics countries but also aligned countries. It could, among others, fund the Northern Corridor in east and central Africa as well as the continent’s infrastructure deficit in general.
A better future
Whether infrastructure or information sharing, Surve said the aim of Brics and the Business Council was to better position member states’ future generations.
“At the first Brics Business Council summit in Durban, I said to a reporter that I do not believe the objective is to create or build institutions for today,” he said.
“Whatever we do, it must be for the benefit of youth in the future.”
And the youth was what Surve and the Sekunjalo team were focusing on through its internship programmes.
One of the outcomes of the Brics Youth Summit in Russia was that young people wanted to gain experience and knowledge from other member states through internships and student exchanges.
Already, Sekunjalo had a thriving international internship programme with work underway to hone in on Brics countries, which the company would announce to the public soon.
“On our own we may not be big enough but together as BRICS we are formidable,” said Surve. “We can now write our own destiny and our own successes.”
Surve is chairman of Sekunjalo, which owns Independent Media.