By Ntandoyenkosi Ncube
JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- BRICS markets are a "tough terrain" and South African businesses need to strengthen its competitiveness in order to survive, Center for Chinese Studies (CCS) Director Sven Grimm said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Xinhua in Johannesburg, Grimm also urged South African businesses to increase their knowledge of the BRICS business environments.
"This is tough terrain – and South Africa business needs to work on their competitive edge and jump at opportunities where they present themselves," Grimm said.
Based at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, CCS is the leading African research institution for policies on relations between China and Africa. The center focuses its researches on political partnerships, economic cooperation and sustainable engagement.
BRICS is an acronym for the world's leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
"The BRICS markets have not waited for South Africa, so you need to find and strengthen your competitive edge as an enterprise in order to survive," Grimm said.
"Knowledge of the BRICS business environments is still limited in South Africa and this will require more investments in South Africa's academic environment," Grimm said ahead of the fifth BRICS Summit to be hosted by South Africa on March 26-27.
"South Africa must try to gain better market access to BRICS countries. But the most that needs to be done is domestic homework especially in the area of education," Grimm said.
"Language skills are needed, as well as knowledge about the economy and society of international partners. That is a key precondition for South Africa."
As the fifth BRICS Summit is expected to provide a clear road map towards the establishment of the BRICS Development Bank, Grimm calls on the summit to deal more with group corporation.
"The BRICS summit itself should look into areas where the countries can learn from comparing experiences or from working jointly."
"The most I would expect is joint standards and benchmarks," Grimm said.
The BRICS mechanism aims to achieve economic development and cooperation. It also seeks to contribute significantly to the development and establishment of a more equitable and fair world.
On Tuesday, South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Pretoria's membership to BRICS will play a key role in advancing its foreign policy which obliges the country not just focusing on its own national interests, but broadly on the interests of the South African Development Community (SADC) and the entire continent.
Grimm also urged African businesses to utilize the summit opportunity to engage with other BRICS countries to advance economic ties. Grimm said African governments should work with the South African government to "ensure that the right business topics are on the agenda."
South African businesses, the government and Africa at large need to have "curiosity about opportunities abroad" in order to realize opportunities within BRICS, Grimm said.
The BRICS bloc represents 43 percent of the world's population, approximately one-fifth of global gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at 13.7-trillion U.S. dollars as well as combined foreign reserves estimated at 4.4 trillion U.S. dollars.
In 2012, the BRICS countries accounted for approximately 11 percent of global annual foreign direct investment (FDI) flows (465 billion U.S. dollars) and 17 percent of world trade.