Blog - Blogs - September 1, 2023

BLOG | A road trip with a ‘BRICS-ter’

Special Feature: A post-BRICS Summit Analysis with the longest serving BRICS Business Council member, South Africa’s Dr Stavros Nicolaou

I have had the privilege of knowing Dr Stavros Nicolaou for a few years now and bear witness to all the work he does for and on behalf of South Africa and Africa, especially in his role as a BRICS Business Council member. The BRICS Business Council is made up of 25 key individuals; five representatives each from the five foundation BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

South African delegation at the Heads of State closing session of the XV BRICS Summit at Johannesburg recently


As fate would have it, Stavros and I were both to attend the Embassy of Ukraine to the Republic of South Africa’s Independence Day celebrations. So, I jumped in with him and his lovely wife, Max, on a road trip from Sandton to Pretoria that became a ‘post-BRICS analysis session.’ It all started when I teasingly said, “My gosh, Stav, you were ‘everywhere; you are such ‘BRICS-ter’”, as I hopped into the car.

Stavros just got back from the Eastern Cape for an Aspen Manufacturing plant site visit the day after the end of the BRICS Summit, along with high-level delegations from the Africa CDC led by DG Dr. Jean Kaseya and the AfCFTA Secretariat. So, he simply laughed—an exhausted but fulfilled laugh.

Because I was part of Stavros’s organising committee for the Pandemic Preparedness, Prevention and Response (PPPR) BRICS Summit side event, we were chatting on a daily basis, and I was aware of all the many, many, many engagements he was involved with. Yet, the Sandton-Pretoria trip banter offered us a very insightful 360-degree view of the impact of the BRICS Summit on Africa’s future.

“As the longest-serving BRICS Business Council member, I have seen BRICS go through its evolution up to this XV Summit, which was the most historical of all. And because it was held IN Africa and mainly FOR Africa, history was made in so many respects. This is the first thing we should be so proud of, as Africans and especially as South Africans,” he emphasized.

Stavros, being the Group Senior Executive for Strategic Trade at Aspen Pharma Group, was obviously elated by all the discussions on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the keen interest shown by global players in investment in Africa. Being the first person who introduced Stavros to the AfCFTA affirmed my belief in the AfCFTA’s vision. Quite simply, it is turning out to be what it was meant to be!

Dr Nicolaou was part of the SA delegation that attended the Heads of State closing session of the Summit, where a crucial announcement was made by our South African President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, as host of the XV BRICS Summit, about the addition of six countries into the bloc.

It was at this point I pulled out of my phone a picture of Stavros, which someone had sent me, as part of a very small elite delegation seated behind South Africa’s President, looking terribly serious, and I jestingly asked, “Why so serious, Stav?”

I got a mischievous smile and questions about where I got it from, which I evaded, after which he responded that our President, as the host, was delivering the ‘wrap-up’ points. Stavros added that the serious look on his face belied quite an emotional moment which hit him at that very moment: ‘We have truly marked the emergence of a multipolar world.’

The fact that the South African Rand is one of the two currencies of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) means South Africa and by extension, Africa, have the opportunity to accelerate the use of an African currency in trade and financial modeling on the basis of African circumstances, structural norms, and history through the AfCFTA, which is already operational.

By this, I mean the Guided Trade Initiative (GTI) along with the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS). Potentially, intra-African trade could be fully operationalised in the next few months. Stavros would obviously like to see the pharmaceuticals sector become a key sector under the AfCFTA, which will address non-communicable diseases that are poised to become the next pandemic, according to the Africa CDC.

“If we truly implement an immediate action plan for localised manufacturing of at least one vaccine, let’s say the PCV [Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine] or the Hexavalent, we can leverage the AfCFTA to ensure life-saving medicine reaches Africa’s most vulnerable, especially women and children. However, if we didn’t act on the discussions at the BRICS Summit, then we would have missed yet another opportunity to optimise Africa’s economic development, right here, right now.

“The youth of Africa are quite rightly impatient to see a bright future. We cannot afford to continue to talk; we must act and implement. We have been given all these tools through BRICS, and we have leaders like the SG of the AfCFTA Wamkele Mene and Dr Jean Kaseya of the Africa CDC, who are doing all they can to drive and implement action-based agendas – What exactly would we be waiting for, as Africa, if we don’t act now?”

By saying this to me, he was obviously preaching to the proverbial choir. So, in pondering about how different this BRICS Summit was and how ordinary Africans will see it as creating value, my question, on the back of Stavros’ question, is how we as ordinary citizens will act on the tools given to us for our own benefit. We cannot expect the government, any government for that matter, to create and develop the tools AND translate the tools into value for us.

In summarising the XV BRICS Summit’s impact on Africa’s future, it is safe to say that we’ve been given an opportunity framework like never before and a veritable smorgasbord of tools, policies and agreements, with South Africa doing a great job of showcasing investment opportunities, not only for the country but for the continent, especially with the advent of the AfCFTA.

So, what or how can WE translate them into benefits for ourselves and the continent? To quote Stavros, “What exactly would we be waiting for, as Africa, if we didn’t act now?”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

BLOG | The Future is Here: A New World Order has been Set in Motion on Africa’s Soil [II]

This is a sequel to Yavi Madurai’s fortnight blog, The Future is Here: A New World Order h…