The BRICS – Africa WBA Trade Conference concluded with outstanding success on August 21, 2023, at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC). Over the course of two dynamic days, the conference brought together global women delegates, entrepreneurs, exhibitors, policymakers, media representatives, and women leaders from across the world. The conference provided a platform for vibrant discussions, strategic partnerships, the reinforcement of the rigid fortitude and pledge to realise gender equity, dismantle disparities that constrain the economic contribution of women, and reimagine a world where women have equal opportunities.
The conference, held from August 20 to 21, converged 500 women-led Small and Medium Enterprises, from 18 countries, including Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and several other African countries. It underscored the critical role of multi-trade and strategic investment partnerships in fostering economic growth, advancing women participation, and driving job creation around the world. With a focus on promoting inclusive growth and sustainable development, the conference highlighted the immense potential of women-led initiatives to drive change and transformation across diverse industries.
Highlights of the BRICS Women Business Alliance Africa Trade Conference:
Strategic Dialogues: A closed session brought together delegates from all five BRICS women chapters. This session served as a platform for thought-provoking discussions on key issues affecting women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship within the BRICS nations. Participants engaged in lively discussions and shared best practices to enhance collaboration and drive positive change.
“This conference will go down in the annals of history as a significant milestone in elevating women empowerment within emerging markets. More importantly, several partnerships and deals that will advance women empowerment were signed during the two-day event,” said Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube
Strengthening Collaboration: A significant milestone was achieved with the signing of memorandums that establish partnerships within the BRICS WBA Chapters. These partnerships will serve as a collaborative platform to drive women’s economic empowerment, foster innovation, and promote sustainable development within the BRICS nations.
The conference ended with the signing of several partnership agreements worth billions of Rands, which the Premier commended as strategic catalysts for economic development. “In the landscape of interconnected economies, multilateral trade and investment play an essential role in forging a path towards inclusive prosperity and a more resilient global economic order.”
“I would like to thank the BRICS WBA for this beautiful initiative. The city of Eastern Cape through the property development charter, and the strategic collaboration with the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC), is committing itself to include the black majority, specifically women and youth, in economic pursuits and decision-making. We want to advance the nature of cooperation and unity among women-led businesses, to foster self-help in the black community, and encourage full participation in the economy of the country,” emphasised the Eastern Cape, MEC: Department of Public Works, Land Reforms and Infrastructure, Ms. Ntombovuyo Rose Nkopane.
Sealing Partnerships: Another key outcome was the signing of contracts between South African women-led representatives and counterparts from China and Russia. These contracts lay the foundation for enhanced opportunities, knowledge sharing, and cooperation in various sectors, creating pathways for mutual growth.
“Today, we gather to witness the realisation of BRICS Women uniting and collaborating to drive economic advancement. I wish to highlight some of the projects and partnership agreements that were concluded and signed during this historic global women’s trade conference. These deals are worth over R48,4 billion and over 120 000 jobs will be created across these projects. This marks a pioneering moment in our shared journey as women,” said Premier Dube-Ncube during the signing ceremony.
Some of the strategic partnership agreements that were signed over the two days:
- The Russia-South Africa Mobility Center on BRICS is a groundbreaking collaborative project between the United Immigration Center (Russia) and Africans Do Travel Pty Ltd (South Africa), with a projected investment value of R47 million. It aimsto establish a physical center in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. It will facilitate cross-border mobility for education, work, and tourism, highlighting the influence of population mobility on global sustainable development.
- The Innovation and Building Technologies Centre of Excellence, established through a Private Public Partnership, is a collaboration between Afuraka IBT Consortium, and Russia’s Federal Autonomous Institution “RosKapStroy.” The project will empower micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the construction sector. This project promotes innovation, knowledge exchange, sustainable construction practices, and eco-friendly technologies, with a combined value of R1.96 billion.
- A dynamic Agriculture and Energy Venture between China and South Africa that integrates marigold plantation and processing, a 1GW solar production plant, and beef production on a 3,000-hectare land parcel. Valued at $2.4 billion, it brings together diverse elements for economic growth.
- The Africa-China AI Medics Platform is a strategic joint venture focusing on healthcare. By combining AI, big data, and traditional medicine, it aims to bridge African traditional medicine with modern healthcare, with an initial investment of $15 million, or R281,6 million, for a pilot phase in South Africa, before expanding to other countries. The project unites Meridian Medical Network Corporation, EtaData, and Human Insights (Pty) Ltd, to harness artificial intelligence, big data, and traditional medicine knowledge to shape the future of healthcare and revolutionise African traditional medicine by creating a bridge to modern healthcare.
- IntelliBiz KZN portal, a collaboration between a Chinese tech firm and a South African enterprise, provides business intelligence to the KwaZulu-Natal Government. With an investment of $44.6 million or over R846 million creating 61,600 new jobs, over three years, it creates a Smart business cloud platform, fostering economic development and job creation. This innovative collaboration aims to empower enterprises, entrepreneurs, government entities, and other stakeholders through corporate and data resources, serving as a catalyst of economic development in KwaZulu-Natal.
- The Health Precinct initiative, a multilateral collaboration between Apollo Hospitals Group, The Health Accelerator, and Zayna Africa Holdings, aims to transform healthcare and boost economic growth across India and South Africa. It addresses health infrastructure, education, disease burdens, technology, and more to enhance healthcare delivery and accessibility globally. The initiative holds the potential to revolutionise healthcare across Africa, beginning in KwaZulu-Natal.
In further accentuating the theme of collaborations, Ms. Sheila Motsepe, on behalf of the Development Bank of South Africa highlighted that the conference reflected and cemented its business-to-business relationships. She further declared that DBSA’s partnership with the BRICS WBA pledges to support key development areas such as infrastructure development in housing, construction, health, technology, and capacity-building initiatives.
“Our journey is more than the mere pursuit of economic parity; it is a movement to transform societies, economies, and mindsets. It is about harnessing our collective strength to redefine what is achievable, and to inspire the generations that will follow us,” emphasised the Chairperson of BRICS WBA South African Chapter, Ms. Lebogang Zulu.
Reflecting on the Success:
The BRICS-Africa WBA Trade Conference has demonstrated the transformative potential of women-led initiatives, strategic partnerships, and global collaboration. Through engaging discussions, partnerships, and initiatives, the conference has paved the way for increased economic empowerment, job creation, and sustainable development for women across the world. Many of the panelists and speakers alluded to the following key issues as pressing, thus requiring immediate resolutions: skills sharing, digital literacy, and inclusivity, commerce, cyber as well as AI (artificial intelligence) interventions.
“As we celebrate the success of this conference, we look forward to witnessing the positive impact of the agreements, partnerships, and initiatives that have been set in motion. The BRICS Women Business Alliance remains committed to advancing women’s economic empowerment and creating a brighter, more inclusive future for all,” echoed the BRICS WBA South African Chapter Secretariat, Ms. Ipeleng Mkhari in closing.