Speech by President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, during the BRICS Business Forum, in Johannesburg, South Africa

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August 24, 2023

I would like to congratulate the South African government for hosting this Business Forum.

I want to express my satisfaction for sharing this event with the other leaders of the BRICS countries.

I would also like to thank all the businesspersons who are present, especially the Business Council management – which is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Establishing partnerships between private sectors is a very relevant dimension of BRICS that gives life and continuity to the relations between the countries.

Our participation in the global economy has been expanding since the first Summit of Heads of State and Government.

We have already surpassed the G7, and we now account for 32% of the world GDP in purchasing power parity.

Projections indicate that emerging and developing markets will present the highest growth rates in the coming years.

According to the IMF, while growth in industrialized countries is expected to drop from 2.7% in 2022 to 1.4% in 2024, the expected growth for developing countries is 4% this year and the next.

This shows that the economy’s dynamism is in the Global South – and BRICS is its driving force.

Brazil’s total trade with BRICS increased from US$48 billion in 2009 to US$178 billion in 2022 – a 370% growth since the group was created.

BRICS Direct Foreign Investment stock in Brazil increased 167% between 2012 and 2021, reaching 34.2 billion dollars. Today, almost 400 companies from the bloc operate in Brazil.

Following the last six years of setbacks and stagnation, Brazil will once again create quality jobs, fight poverty and increase the income of Brazilian families.

Two weeks ago, I presented Brazil’s new Growth Acceleration Program [Novo Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento/Novo PAC]. The program will resume infrastructure work that had been paralyzed, speed up those in progress, and select new projects.

It’s a broad program that holds many opportunities that could be of interest to investors from BRICS countries.

We expect to mobilize USD 340 billion to modernize our logistics infrastructure – investing in roads, railways, waterways, ports, and airports.

We will also prioritize the generation of solar, wind, biomass, ethanol, and biodiesel energy. Our potential for producing green hydrogen is gigantic.

We are going to establish partnerships between the government and businesspersons across all these fields – through concessions, Public-Private Partnerships, and direct contracts.

So that investments may increase again and create development, we must ensure greater credibility, predictability, and legal stability for the private sector.

This is why I have defended the idea of using a reference unit for trade, but not to replace our national currencies.

Developing countries’ unmet financing needs continue to be very high. The lack of significant reform in traditional financial institutions limits the volume and credit modalities in existing banks.

The decision to establish the New Development Bank was a milestone in effective collaboration among emerging economies.

Our joint bank must be a global leader in financing projects that address the most pressing challenges of our time.

By diversifying sources of payment in local currencies and expanding its network of partners and members, the NDB is a strategic platform to promote cooperation among developing countries.

In this strategy, engagement with the African Development Bank will be central.

At the multilateral level, BRICS stands out as a force working in favor of a fairer, more predictable, and equitable global trade.

We cannot accept a green neocolonialism that imposes trade barriers and discriminatory measures under the pretext of protecting the environment.

As of December, Brazil will occupy the presidency of the G20. The presence of three BRICS members in the G20 Troika will be a great opportunity for us to advance issues that are of interest to the Global South.

We already have the participation of South Africa, but the group’s representativeness will be expanded by the entry of the African Union and other countries from the continent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Upon returning to the presidency of my country, I am resuming the guidelines of Brazilian foreign policy.

We have begun to reestablish South American integration. We resumed our partnerships with the United States, China, and the European Union.

We hosted the Summit of Amazon Countries – but Brazil still had to return to Africa.

The fact that, in 2022, Brazil’s trade with Africa has dropped by one third compared to 2013 – when it was almost 30 billion dollars – is unacceptable.

The trade flow with Africa still corresponds to only 3.5% of Brazil’s foreign trade.

Our network of commercial agreements is also incipient. The Mercosur agreements with Southern Africa and Egypt date back to my second term.

Today, more than 65% of Mercosur exports to Africa go to countries with which there is no agreement in force. There’s plenty of room to grow.

As well as a past that unites us, we also share a common vision of the future.

During my first two terms, the African continent was a priority. I have made 12 trips to Africa and been to 21 countries.

Brazil is back to the continent it should never have left. Africa has vast opportunities and enormous growth potential.

To discuss the reestablishment of trade with the continent, Brazil gathered the leaders of the trade promotion sectors of all our representations in African countries here in Johannesburg last June.

Africa is building an ambitious free trade zone project: 54 countries, 1.3 billion people, and over US$3 trillion in GDP.

In this continent, which is the youngest in the world and will be the most populous in 2100, there are countless opportunities for Brazilian products such as food and beverages, oil, iron ore, vehicles, and iron and steel products.

Africa harbors 65% of the arable land available in the world, and it has a strong vocation to be an agricultural power – with the capacity to feed its people and offer solutions towards global food security.

Combining investment and technology, Brazil has developed modern tropical agriculture techniques that can be successfully replicated.

Through the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation [Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária], we have turned our Cerrado into highly productive agricultural land – and we can replicate this experience in the African Savannah.

My government also resumed public policies to support family farming, which is essential to combat the food insecurity and hunger that affects our continents.

The Mais Alimentos Program, which I relaunched last June, allows small producers to access financing to purchase tractors and harvesters.

Just as in the past, a version of More Food for Africa is to be resumed as another aspect of Brazilian South-South cooperation.

Africa is also at the heart of the digital and energy transitions.

Internet coverage already includes most of the African population, and digital innovation centers and financial technology service companies are increasing in number.

The strengthening of the Brazilian health industrial complex is capable of generating ample opportunities for collaboration.

Just like South America, the African continent has important reserves of critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt – which will play a strategic role.

So as not to remain mere exporters of primary products, we must take the opportunity to forge integration of our production chains and add value to the goods and services we produce in a sustainable way.

Africa is the world region that emits the least greenhouse gasses. Nonetheless, it continues to face the most perverse consequences of global warming – such as droughts, floods, fires, and cyclones.

Brazil and several African countries possess comprehensive plans to renew their energy matrices.

We share responsibility for caring for our tropical forests and preserving biodiversity. We have efforts to combat desertification in common.

The environmental and ecosystem services tropical forests provide to the world must be rewarded fairly and equitably.

Sociobiodiversity products can generate jobs and income and offer alternatives to the predatory exploitation of natural resources.

These are the pillars of the Ecological Transformation Plan that we will launch soon.

For our economic and productive integration to flourish, it will be necessary to expand sea and air connections between the two sides of the Atlantic.

It is inexplicable that there are still no direct flights between São Paulo and Johannesburg, Cairo, or Dakar, all essential to increase the flow of people, commerce, and tourism.

The proposal of the BRICS Business Council to establish a multilateral agreement on air services for the group, including the leading national transport and aviation authorities, is very pertinent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

BRICS now has a unique opportunity to shape the path of global development.

All of you, businesspersons, are part of this effort of ours. Together, our countries make up a third of the world’s economy.

This relevance will increase with the entry of new full members and dialogue partners.

Collaboration between the public and private sectors is vital to harnessing this potential and achieving lasting results.

Thank you very much.

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