HARARE, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Southern African nations have high expectations from the forthcoming BRICS summit in South Africa, a chance to boost cooperation between leading emerging markets and Africa, a researcher has said.
Phyllis Johnson, executive director of the Harare-based Southern African Research and Documentation Center (SARDC), said in an interview with Xinhua ahead of the summit that one expectation was "certainly" the BRICS bank, and another was greater recognition and interaction with regional institutions in Africa.
"This is recognized in the current Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Action Plan for the first time and certainly South Africa recognizes this and will promote it," she said.
BRICS has invited African states to take part in its deliberations at the March 26-27 summit whose theme is "BRICS and Africa – Partnerships for Integration and Industrialization" and seeks to unlock potential for cooperation between the BRICS countries and Africa.
BRICS is an acronym for the five emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Johnson also said that the formation of the BRICS bank would be a very important development for Zimbabwe and other African countries, as it would offer an accessible alternative to the Bretton Woods institutions that currently have a monopoly on global banking and finance.
She added that the case of Zimbabwe is particularly illustrative of this, as the current United States sanctions prevent the government from sourcing finance from those institutions.
The BRICS bank may take some time to establish and capitalize, and also needs to find new criteria on which to select applicant countries, as the only global reference at present is the data on financial profiling and credit ratings released by the Bretton Woods institutions, she said.
Johnson said it would be to South Africa's advantage to promote regional and continental involvement within the BRICS framework.
"South Africa has everything to gain from promoting regional and continental involvement," the researcher said, adding that considering the population and GDP statistics, South Africa is by far the smallest population and economy among the BRICS countries.
According to SARDC, South African economy is valued about 290 billion U.S. dollars, which is less than a quarter of that of Russia.
"South Africa as a country is small, but the regional market is much bigger, as the population of the African continent now exceeds 1 billion," Johnson said.
She said, however, that there was still little indication of strengthening regional links between the African region with Russia, India or Brazil as yet, compared with China.
Johnson said that with the coming in of a new generation of leaders led by Xi Jinping, the steadily upward growth trajectory of cooperation between China and Africa during the past decade would continue and strengthen as planned.
"This is also indicated by his visit to three countries in Africa just days after he has taken up his new national office," Johnson said. "There is great potential for strengthening and expanding cooperation with regional institutions in Africa."
"In crossing the many hurdles towards economic integration and management, we can learn a lot from China's development trajectory on a similar scale with similar patterns," she added.