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A digital BRICS can fulfill new goals

Huang Yongfu
Updated: Jul 25,2018 9:16 AM     China Daily

The ongoing 10th BRICS summit of the leaders of five major emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — in Johannesburg will ensure programmatic continuity, as suggested by its theme of “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. And the accompanying forums, dialogues and about 100 sectoral meetings on the sidelines of the summit show every effort is being made to lead the group toward greater success.

Since the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China in 2006, the group has remained committed to synergizing the member states’ development strategies and further upgrading pragmatic South-South cooperation in such areas as trade and investment, currency and finance, connectivity, sustainable development, innovation and industrial cooperation. As a group representing emerging markets and developing countries, BRICS has been promoting reform in global governance to make international relations democratic and increase the say of the South in global affairs with the aim of helping boost global growth and maintain world peace and stability.

Over the past decade, BRICS has formulated a series of platforms within its mechanism to deliver tangible benefits to the peoples of the five countries and beyond. In particular, the founding of the BRICS New Development Bank is a major contribution to the global financial system, which demonstrates the incredible vitality and initiative China has injected into the mechanism.

Significant headway has been made in relation to high-quality cooperation in trade facilitation, service trade, currency swaps and settlements, and public-private partnership. As a primary engine of the world economy, the BRICS group along with other developing countries has injected fresh impetus into the global economy — 42 percent of the world’s population contributing 50 percent of global economic growth in the past decade.

It is worth noting that the group has adopted a “BRICS Plus” approach, inviting more countries from across the globe to participate in its mechanism. This approach is a way to enhance the resilience of BRICS cooperation and promote BRICS as a leading platform for South-South cooperation. With broadened partnerships, the mechanism can evolve into a more influential platform that facilitates inclusive growth and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including poverty elimination.

Currently, global growth is sluggish coupled with the rising trend of anti-globalization, protectionism and unilateralism, and most BRICS countries are faced with urgent structural reforms while a more just and equitable world order remains beyond reach. These challenges and opportunities underline the significance of the Johannesburg summit to enhance confidence, provide solutions, outline the priorities and map out a blueprint to chart the course for the bloc to expand common development.

In this sense, an inclusive digital development strategy — an inclusive growth strategy in digitally enabled economies and societies — could be a solution as it could help cultivate a shared and trusted digital environment to drive economic development and social cohesion.

At the cusp of a new wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digitalization is transforming industries and business models, spurring trade and competitiveness, expanding access to overseas markets, propelling societies forward and fostering government transparency and accountability. However, digitalization is often accompanied by uncertainty and thorny challenges, such as the global digital divide.

Even in some member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, some poor and uneducated people are still shut out of the new economy owing to a lack of internet access. If left to market forces, digitalization cannot ensure all the people benefit equally from economic progress, as they often bypass those who are the most vulnerable, widening the income gap and increasing social instability.

In an ever more digitalized and interlinked world, social inclusiveness is a prerequisite for ensuring sustainable growth. Leaders from the bloc, African countries and beyond will discuss potential challenges and opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, aiming to create an inclusive society and global partnerships that bring prosperity to all.

The BRICS mechanism has so far highlighted the strong conviction and consensus of the bloc to make unremitting efforts for common development. In its second “golden decade”, BRICS is expected to usher in a digital era and live up to global expectation to promote global growth and multilateralism amid anti-globalization concerns.