Making journalists wait two and a half hours for a fairly non-eventful media briefing was not the most auspicious public launch of the BRICS Summit.
However, the logistics of hosting such an event are mind-boggling, especially when one hears the list of hangers-on who will be joining the 5 BRICS Heads of State for their three-day bun feast.
If you were planning a speedy, stress-free, delay-free, drive through Sandton later this week – forget it. The blue light convoys will be a-many; the bottlenecks awful.
The impatient media mob at the curtain-raising briefing on Monday was given a list of all the political leaders who are due at the Summit. It might have taken less time to list those countries which will be absent.
In the run-up to the main gathering, there have been numerous business and ministerial get-togethers, possibly to demonstrate what a flourishing and valuable building-block the BRICS is for a new world order.
Of course, the one man who will be oft-discussed among the emerging market leaders is the man who leads the most emerged economy of all – the US of A.
Even without attending in person, Donald Trump will have set the real economic agenda for this meeting: Is the world heading down a new, damaging, economic slippery-slope to protectionism?
If so, how can the BRICS respond? Is their fledgling bloc capable of banding together ever-more closely?
One suspects that while most of the Summit will be waffle – the hosts were able to point to progress on vaccines, on women’s issues and on tackling the 4th industrial revolution as possible highlights of what will become “The Johannesburg Declaration” – a document which is being furiously drafted in time for the leaders to give it a quick glance, a run through the spell-check, and their enthusiastic support.
As with any such meeting, the real action will not be on display. It will be in the chats, the catch-ups, the handshakes, which take place behind the scenes.
President Ramaphosa is making good progress towards raising the $100bn in new investment he is seeking for SA. Pledges may be announced by some at the Summit.
Russia may well be happy to help, if we rekindle out nuclear build. China clearly wants to continue its economic march across Africa, and the Indians appear to have similar ambitions. Ramaphosa can help.
The relationship between the BRICS and Africa is the underlying theme of this Summit, in line with South Africa’s stated intention to place its own future at the heart of African economic integration.
Even if the timekeeping is terrible, the global stakes are high, on Friday we will be assured of the success of this 10th BRICS Summit.
Whatever the actual outcome.
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