South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, left, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, center, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop pose for a photo after a press conference on the sidelines of the Council of Ministers Meeting at Indian Ocean Rim Association summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Plans to set up the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB), formerly referred to as the Brics Bank, are at an advanced stage, South African minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a Brics Business Council dinner, Nkoana-Mashabane said: “Brics Bank is no longer a dream. It is a reality.” She said the African Regional Centre of the Bank would initially focus on infrastructure funding. The centre would be based in Johannesburg. “We already have an address,” she said. She said the bank would compete with the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Speaking at the same event, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said Africa had to move towards industrialised and diversified economies.

“That is absolutely fundamental,” he said. He said digitised technologies could be tools to solve the continent’s problems “and bring in people to production. We have to make the journey as a continent together.”

He said there were lessons that Africa could learn from China, which he said was undergoing reforms which would culminate in that country focusing on its domestic market.

“It has turned to domestic consumption. It is trying to move beyond manufacturing. It has turned into an innovator of technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That is our journey. That is what where we need to be going. We need to accompany that with much more energetic tools deployed to open up opportunities for our people,” said Davies.

He said being part of the bloc of emerging economies was important, as the Brics economies accounted for 22.5 percent of global output and 40 percent of the global population.

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“The global output is expected to rise in the next five years to about a quarter of global output. So it is a significant grouping of countries. What was important for South Africa is that South Africa became part of it. Brics needed an African economy. They were missing this continent. Our membership of Brics has borne an understanding and a responsibility that we must bring the relationship with the African continent into the Brics family."

Davies said South Africa had strong economic and trade relations with its Brics partners. On trade, China was South Africa’s largest trading partner as an export destination and a source of imports. India was the country’s sixth largest trade partner.

He said trade with Russia and Brazil had also increased. The problem with South Africa’s trading relationship with its Brics partners was that the country exported primary products and imported finished goods.

“But there has been willingness in the context of the Brics partnership to support more value adding and to support this through practical interventions,” said Davies.

Meanwhile, Dr Iqbal Survé, the chairperson of the Brics Business Council, said by 2030, the combined gross domestic product of the Brics countries was expected to reach R50 trillion.

“We are very fortunate to be at that table. But being at that table does not guarantee that we will benefit easily. We will have to work hard,” said Survé.