New Delhi: Buoyed by the creation of the Brics New Development Bank, seen as an alternative to Bretton Woods institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), by five developing countries, South Africa’s deputy high commissioner to India Malose W. Mogale has sought support from Russia and China to reform the United Nations Security Council and include Brazil, India and South Africa as new permanent members.

If the UN does not listen to the developing nations, then alternatives to the existing system through regional groupings and the security arrangements will emerge, Mogale said in an interview ahead of the seventh Brics summit in Ufa, Russia, this week.

Edited excerpts:

What are your expectations from the Ufa summit?

South Africa believes in multilateral interaction. We believe that problems in the world cannot be resolved by individual countries but by collective effort.

Brics is a forum within which emerging markets have agreed among themselves to say that they have the capacity to change the world order. They have realized that the economic architecture of the world has been skewed towards the developed, not the developing world. And, therefore, that has to change.

What are South Africa’s expectations from the Ufa summit?

One is operationalization of the Fortaleza (Brics summit held in July 2014) agreement, especially relating to the Brics bank. In a year or two years from now, we should have the bank in operation.

One aspect that we need to emphasize is Brics is not in competition with anybody else. It is not in competition with the IMF, it is not in competition with the World Bank, it is not in competition with the Asian Development Bank. It is a complementary institution that will assist institutions that will not be able to reach certain specific goals. It is sort of complementing what the world is already offering.

In terms of operation, it (Brics bank) can be an IMF, it will never be like a World Bank. It should be based on normal business principles. But it should not be in a manner that disadvantages the member countries.

We should lend to countries that request funding, we must not dictate what they (the countries) must do. We should be able to say this is how you can move towards economic recovery. We have seen in many countries that infrastructure development becomes the cornerstone of economic development.

What do you see as the achievements of Brics so far?

The world has changed in its outlook since the formation of Brics. Brics has already established a bank. We are now close to establishing an agreement on how we conduct trade among Brics nations, to use the ‘five Rs’ (Brazilian Real, Russian Rouble, Indian Rupee, Chinese Renminbi and South Africa’s Rand).

In Ufa, there might be specific pronouncements. As of now, we trade in the dollar. So the question is how can we trade without the dollar. We now know that it is possible. Since the Durban summit (in 2013), we have been talking about transforming the UN Security Council (UNSC) architecture. So, we are beginning to deal with political issues. Two months ago, deputy foreign ministers of Brics countries met in Russia. The main question was how do we approach the issues of the Middle East, particularly the issue of Syria, the Palestinian problem...

We have formulated a position on terrorism. Brics started as an economic grouping, now it has ventured into political issues.

You have said the Brics bank is not in competition with the IMF or the World Bank. What kind of difference will the Brics bank make compared to lending institutions that have been in existence for many decades?

Africa is poorer today because of the IMF and the World Bank. It’s an undisputable fact.

Most countries have requested money. They had to pay (back) more than what they asked for. Brics (bank) is going to be different. We will say, the money that they borrow, it will not be possible to repay in three years, but this is how we think you can restructure your repayment and pay in the coming 10 years or so.

There are reservations among African countries about the way the Chinese are engaging with the continent. Will this unease have any effect on how African nations view and deal with the Brics bank?

Not at all. There is a China-Africa forum (on the lines of the India-Africa summit).

It is a forum where the heads of African states sit with China and say this is what we do not want. They have been told. (African) member states equally should not shy away from what is in their national interest. They should be able to dictate to their funders, or whoever else.

We (South Africa) have been clear in terms of what we want from China. And how China will benefit from us. We have signed a five-year strategic programme with China. So we are clear what we want.

The other African countries, if they open their doors, and it is what they want, we (South Africa) can’t say don’t do this.

We can’t tell Zimbabwe don’t give Chinese your platinum mines; you can’t go into Gambia and say don’t open your resources in terms of oil and gas to the Chinese because then it will confirm the perception that we (South Africa) are beginning to be part of, or co-opted by, the West and we are becoming a policeman of Africa.

But at a fora like the African Union, we say that there should be a partnership that is not contrary to the national interest of a specific country.

China is a former colony, like India, and so its approach will not be the same as the approach of the former colonizers.

The moment that the Chinese were told in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo)—you bring your labour, you extract the minerals and then you leave—the Chinese realized that there was a problem, that African countries are beginning to rise in their numbers. It happened in Kenya.

But Chinese have changed. Africa has changed. We are saying that we want cooperation and will have cooperation.

Is there a proposal to ease travel among Brics member countries with a Brics visa?

South Africa has taken a decision—at this point in time, it relates to business, that business people from all Brics countries are eligible for a visa not exceeding 10 years. So, it is already in place.But we are looking at some arrangement by which we can extend this to others—for free movement of citizens of Brics countries. If you have a passport from your country then how do we ensure you move through the Brics member states as if it were a free zone? We hope that (the summit at) Ufa will implement it. It is in interest of all (member) countries. Any movement of people, either tourists or people visiting their relatives, is an economic activity. If I visit any other Brics country, then I am contributing to their economy.

Therefore if you restrict movement, you are restricting economic growth.

There were plans to begin e-commerce among Brics countries. Any progress on that?

This discussion is still at the level of the joint ministerial commission of the Brics countries. This needs to be discussed among member states. I don’t think this is coming up in this Ufa summit. I don’t think we have arrived at a concurrence.

What are the likely takeaways from the Ufa summit?

We will now know the position especially of our friends who are already members of the Security Council on what is the movement in terms of reforms of the UNSC.

In bilateral conversations, Russia and China have always said they are open to looking at reforms to the UNSC and for us to be part of it. We say India, Brazil and South Africa must be part of the reformed UNSC. It will be much more clear after Ufa when a clear Brics position will be pronounced. Our argument is the world can’t remain the same after 70 years. But there are several factors here. The West has realized that if they don’t change, there will be an alternative.

What kind of alternatives?

Alternatives here are building a strong, effective and regional multilateral forums with the capacity to resolve matters relating to maintenance of regional and inter-continental peace and stability. Promotion of regional and inter-continental trade among the developing world.

The regional blocs, when they became efficient, may diminish the role of the UNSC going forward. However, I must stress that South Africa and other members of the African Union and Brics still believe there is room for reform of the United Nations, especially the Security Council in the current form.

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