South Africa has shared its COVID-19 experiences with fellow BRICS member countries.
Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel shared South African experiences of the pandemic during the 10th BRICS Trade Ministers Meeting on Thursday.
Minister Patel outlined national interventions and actions. He also highlighted key lessons that government is drawing from the Coronavirus crisis and how that is shaping thinking about the future.
Patel said government is considering further economic measures, including significant infrastructure investment and developing greater levels of dynamism and competitiveness in the domestic industry.
The Minister highlighted two key observations from South Africa's experience in dealing with the pandemic.
"The first observation is that solidarity and working together is critical in fighting a pandemic. And, as the pandemic is still with us, we need to now further strengthen the solidarity between ourselves: for example in securing critical goods from each other where no local manufacturing capability currently exists,” he said.
He also spoke of the need to promote investment in BRICS economies so as to fast-track economic recovery.
The second observation he shared with his BRICS counterparts is that the benefits of highly integrated supply-chains come with enormous vulnerabilities when they are disrupted.
"African countries are learning the hard lesson that if we are simply exporters of raw materials and importers of medication, medical equipment and other critical goods, then our ability to ensure protection of citizens in moments like these is compromised," said Patel.
He added that building resilient and diversified supply-chains must include building domestic manufacturing capabilities as part of building new, inclusive supply-chains.
"An inclusive supply-chain means that manufacturing capacity is diversified across countries and South Africa, and indeed the African continent, is ready to expand production for both existing product lines and new product opportunities," he said.
However, this does not entail disengaging from global trade, investment and cooperation. These, he said, remain important sources of growth and development.
“However, we do not think it wise or the right time to consider new binding global or plurilateral rules in haste at a time of such crisis. We need to retain flexibility to respond with all available policy tools to address the crisis and effect economic recovery.”
The meeting also focused on responses to the Coronavirus pandemic, the strategy for the BRICS Economic Partnership, the Multilateral Trading System and other key areas of cooperation.
In the G20 and at the World Trade Organisation, South Africa called for a discussion on the relationship between TRIPS (the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and COVID-19, arguing that affordable access to technology to produce critical medical supplies remains important.
The South African government has argued that the provisions of the TRIPs Agreement on patents and compulsory licensing should not be barriers to sharing the technology (without royalty) to produce the medical equipment needed to address the crisis.
BRICS countries are an important trading block partner for South Africa, with exports to BRICS countries from South Africa totalling nearly R500 billion in 2019.
In the 10 years since its inception, BRICS cooperation has expanded to many areas, including economy, trade, finance, business, agriculture, education, health, science and technology, culture, think tanks, and friendship cities.
BRICS is the association of the five major emerging countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.