The African branch of the BRICS New Development Bank opened in Johannesburg recently.
Headquarterd in Shanghai, China, the African office will identify and prepare proposals for African projects that would qualify for funding from the bank.
President Jacob Zuma said the establishment of the African office an important milestone for Africa as well as South Africa. He was joined at the launch in Sandton by the bank’s president Kundapur Vaman Kamath.
The bank, President Zuma explained, has been mandated to fund African infrastructure, especially in the areas of energy, transport and the water. This funding will help unlock the growth potential of the continent, the president believes.
“African countries generally do not have adequate infrastructure interconnections. As a result, we cannot maximise the benefits of regional trade. Worse still, the continent does not have adequate social infrastructure for the provision of basic services such as health and education, and we therefore are not able to significantly improve the living standards of our people.”
The World Bank estimates that there is a $100 billion a year funding shortfall for infrastructure projects in Africa. The shortage, especially for power generation projects, has restrained industrial growth across the continent.
President Zuma believes the bank’s role should be more than meeting the funding needs of African projects. The bank should become a centre of excellence to build capacity and share knowledge across the continent.
It should “…foster the development of member countries, support economic growth, promote and facilitate job creation and to build a knowledge sharing platform among developing countries”.
The setting up of the bank was announced in 2014 at a BRICS Summit in Brazil. It was established to meet the specific development needs of the global south. At the time, Kamath said: “Our objective is not to challenge the existing system as it is but to improve and complement the system in our own way.”