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Opinion & Analysis (1024)

A country’s international economic agenda is invariably shaped by its domestic constraints and socio-economic development objectives. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) states are no exception.
Indicators of health are a mirror of what goes on in societies, how the world works, and who benefits most. The world over, poor people are more sick and die earlier than those who are better off.
This week saw the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) Budget Vote presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry. SAIIA would like to congratulate Minister Rob Davies on his reappointment and wishes both the Minister and dti officials well for the implementation of their work programme.
In an era of global politics and interdependence, foreign affairs is closer to home than ever before. In fact in many ways it begins at home. As the world’s fastest growing free-market and the most populous democracy with the third largest armed force, India simply matters in global affairs.
Over the European summer the world will witness several centennial commemorations of the first World War. One hundred years ago today, on 23 July 1914, Austria-Hungary presented an ultimatum to Serbia, and on 28 July, war was declared on Serbia.
For a decade now the world has been engaged in what has been seen as a battle against blood diamonds perceived as funding wars in countries like Sierra Leone and DRC. The Kimberley process is one unique but flawed example of an attempt at global governance co-operation by producers and consumers to stamp out blood diamonds.
After five years of introspection and institution building, the sixth BRICS summit offers an opportunity for the group to focus on its relations with the rest of the world. Relations with the Group of 7 (G-7) are particularly contentious. Russia's exclusion from the G-8 following the crisis in Crimea has moved the BRICS to the centre stage in Russian foreign policy thinking, and risks pulling the group onto an opposition footing with the West.
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) were brought together by their investment returns and growth potential, but for the group to act they must find some common purpose.
The emergence of the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) grouping coincided with the notion of an ‘Africa Rising’, a term coined following Africa's growing economic prosperity. The rise of BRICS also overlapped with their increased involvement in Africa.
As the BRICS meet in Fortaleza, Brazil from 14-16 July 2014, attention is once again on the group’s efforts to establish two new financial institutions: the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement. Negotiations are underway on both and, while it remains uncertain that they will be officially launched in Fortaleza, substantial progress is expected to be announced at the summit.
BRICS’ critics were dealt a crippling blow recently when the group, which is often accused of being a talk shop, showed they are also very keen on reading. In an unusual move for an international summit, the group released an official 'BRICS Bibliography', listing key readings for those wishing to know more about the leaders, economics, history, literature, politics and sociology of each country.
On 22 June, four suspected illegal miners were found dead with gunshot wounds to the head at a gold mine near Johannesburg. Earlier this year, a rescue operation to remove illegal miners from the abandoned Gold One mineshaft on South Africa’s East Rand, revealed a reluctance to be rescued for fear of arrest. This brings to attention the scale and intractability of efforts to curb illegal mining.
To President Zuma’s credit, last Tuesday evening’s State of the Nation Address went straight to the heart of South Africa’s triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. His vision of needed policy responses also put the National Development Plan (NDP) at the front and centre: government plans to achieve an economic growth rate of 5% by 2019.
The African Union 23rd summit is convening in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on 20 June 2014. It will reach its zenith with the Ordinary session of the Assembly on 26-27 June. Irrespective of the agenda, which is not yet publicly communicated, or the summit theme 'Agriculture and Food Security in Africa', the final decisions and declaration document on 27 June is expected to be a congested one.
Are South Africa’s foreign policymakers appropriately geared during the second term of the Zuma Administration to manage the expectations of its region effectively? More importantly, can South Africa integrate its economic goals successfully with its regional priorities?  
The newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Senzeni Zokwana, inherits a complex and divisive set of governance challenges within South Africa’s fisheries sector. Recent developments, however, suggest that his tenure may present an important opportunity to effect meaningful change and set South African fisheries on a more sustainable and prosperous path.
The world trading system is at a critical juncture. This particularly concerns the drawn out Doha Round which, until the WTO's Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, had been at an impasse since 2008.
Since China hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics there has been a marked increase in the active bidding and subsequent hosting of global mega-events by countries considered ‘rising’ in international affairs. In 2010 the Commonwealth Games was hosted in India, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the World Expo in China. Fast forward to 2014 and Russia held the Sochi Winter Olympics, while Brazil is set to host the upcomming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Despite the shadow cast by the charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court, Kenya has been quietly going about compiling its second Country Self-Assessment Report (CSAR) under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). As an APRM member, Kenya is expected to submit itself to the continent’s voluntary home-grown tool that assesses the state of governance in participating countries. The APRM proposes corrective measures to address governance gaps that emerge during the review.
Brazil 'is the country of the future and always will be'. Attributed to Stefan Zweig, an Austrian novelist who emigrated to Brazil in 1941, this quote could be adapted to Nigeria, which recently hosted the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Africa Summit in Abuja.
If the European Union (EU) and the 'Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) can provide strong leadership in at least four key areas, EU companies can become better placed than their global peers to meet the stricter operation standards and developmental impact being demanded by communities and governments in Africa.
2014 marks two decades since the end of apartheid and the establishment of a constitutional democracy in South Africa. The manner of the country’s transformation to democracy imbued it with soft power of legitimacy and credibility that provided it with unique leverage in global affairs. Coupled with its willingness to become an active global citizen, South Africa has used this soft power in its foreign policy.
With a persistently high unemployment rate, building an economy that provides opportunities for all is extremely important to all the political parties contesting the 2014 South African general election.
The 20th commemoration of the Rwandan genocide this year offers an apt opportunity to reflect on how far Africa has come in preventing a reoccurrence of such a tragedy.
On Sunday 6 April 2014 on the way to the SAIIA offices in Braamfontein I passed many Nigerian churches, which are now permanent features of inner-city Johannesburg. Sermons were already underway and sounded celebratory. I wondered if they were celebrating the announcement of Nigeria being named the continent’s largest economy, usurping South Africa.
An internal Ukrainian crisis dating back to November 2013 took on an external dimension last month. Just as Ukrainians were starting to rebuild their country after months of protests and a change of leadership, Russia’s intervention in Crimea has shifted the focus, and set off alarm bells throughout Europe.
Bulgaria is still the poorest European Union country, but its fortunes have improved exponentially since it joined the EU. This makes the recent events in the Crimean Peninsula unfortunate. By leaving Ukraine, Crimea has missed a window of opportunity to benefit from Ukraine’s closer association with the EU.
Representatives of 54 African and 28 European States, including over 30 heads of state, will meet in Brussels on 2 and 3 April for the fourth EU-Africa Summit. The meeting has a broad-ranging agenda under the title “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”.
South Africa’s approach to regulating the protection of foreign investments and investors has become controversial. It has centered on the future of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), pitting the European Union (EU) against the South African government. The debate was precipitated by the SA government’s decision to terminate or not renew BITs. Now it is refocusing on the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill, released on 1 November 2013. A three-month window for public comments on the bill has recently closed.
The people of the Crimean peninsula in the Ukraine voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation on 16 March 2014. The following day the Crimea declared its independence from the Ukraine as the Republic of Crimea and the Autonomous City of Sevastopol. And on 18 March 2014 the territories formally joined the Russian Federation through a treaty of accession.