South Africa Leads the Way in Resolving Global Challenges


By Pranjal Sharma


This year has seen South Africa lead the world on global dialogues which concern the continent and the emerging markets. Starting from the annual meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, to the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa and then the G20 Ministerial meetings in India. In all the international and multilateral gatherings, South Africa is showcasing its leadership of ideas especially in a year where it also chairs BRICS.


SA has also maintained a strong position among the most powerful countries in Africa according to a recent survey by Global Soft Power Index, a data insight organization. The index created a list of the most powerful countries in the world. This list was determined based on 11 parameters and a survey that had over 100,000 respondents in over 102 markets. South Africa is number two among the top 10 powerful countries in the continent.


According to the company, “the Global Soft Power Index incorporates a broad range of measures, which in combination provide a balanced and holistic assessment of nations’ presence, reputation, and impact on the world stage.”


The world remains a difficult place with the Ukraine war overshadowing most crises while issues of fuel, food and fertilizers are top priorities for emerging markets.




South Africa was an impressive presence at the first post Covid winter meeting in Davos in January. Its leaders and businesses demonstrated that the country is leading an emerging markets bounce back after two years of a crippling pandemic for the world. The theme for the 2023 meeting, “Cooperation in a Fragmented World”, summarized the combination of economic, geo-political and social challenges currently faced by the world. Leader of the South African delegation, Minister of Finance Enoch Godongwana, along with his colleagues, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel, and Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi communicated a forceful message for business leaders. “Our society is undergoing rapid transformation, presenting us with as many challenges as it does opportunities,” Minister Godongwana said. “We must pull together, across borders and political affiliations, to understand and overcome these challenges, and take full advantage of the opportunities.”


The key issue of a common trade agreement within the continent was presented at Davos and later ratified at the African Union meeting.




After Davos the next critical meeting of the African Union also saw South Africa offer an emphatic support for the continents free trade agreement, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA Secretariat and WEF, in a report titled “A New Era for Global Business and Investment in Africa”, revealed that the single market is projected to grow to 1.7 billion people and $6.7 trillion in consumer and business spending by 2030, with the latter set to more than double to around $16 billion by 2050.


AfCFTA’s plan is to boost intra-African trade by 60 percent by 2034 by eliminating almost all tariffs, creating an economic bloc of 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion.


African countries currently trade only about 15 percent of their goods and services with each other, compared to more than 65 percent with European countries. If fully implemented, AfCFTA would lift 50 million Africans out of extreme poverty and raise incomes by nine percent by 2035, according to the World Bank.


“The Assembly took note of the executive council recommendations for the consideration and adopted the following Draft Legal Instruments: draft protocol to the agreement establishing the AfCFTA Competition Policy, Investment and on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR),” the AU Communique reads.


Phase I of the AfCFTA Agreement consists of protocols on trade, goods and services, and rules/procedures on settlement of disputes.


“The protocol is a one-of-a kind legal instrument that seeks to address challenges that young people as entrepreneurs and traders face through legally binding commitments,” said AfCFTA Secretary General Wamkele Mene.





It is a remarkably interesting coincidence that leadership of the global south in G20 will be led by the key members of BRICS countries in quick succession. After the current presidency of India, the next one will be with Brazil in 2024 and then South Africa in 2025.


With its leadership in BRICS this year, South Africa has the unique position to bring continuity and collaboration between the global south and the global north.


“The Global South is able to lead the Global Institutions and shape the characters of global affairs. So, for us, the chairing by India is really an opportunity for developing countries to set the issues of the developing world on the agenda of the world stage,” Foreign Minister of South Africa Naledi Pandor told news channel WION during the G20 ministerial in New Delhi. “We are worried that the United Nations has been marginalized in this current conflict. And we seriously believe that the secretary-general needs to play a leading role because the UN is the global body of all of us. But it is not being given the place to play that role of leadership in seeking peace. We are looking forward to India, Brazil, South Africa, and China playing a leading role in drawing the parties together, because one of our members is Russia as BRICS.”


With its leadership at BRICS and later at G20, South Africa can bring the top leaders of the world to help address the war in Ukraine.


There is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of South Africa now. From improving the trade linkages in Africa, to supporting the global south and helping end conflict in Europe. The next few months will see the impact of South African influence in global issues.


Pranjal Sharma is a geo-economic analyst and author based in New Delhi, India.