Journal № 2 (18) 2023 Personality
A new economic reality is now taking shape, within which the importance of «centers of power» such as BRICS is objectively growing.

– Mr. Katyrin, you have been participating in the BRICS Business Council since its establishment 10 years ago in South Africa. In what areas and directions is the interaction between the business communities of the Big Five most active? Are there any difficulties in the development of relations? And are there areas of interaction where the potential has not yet been sufficiently realized?

– Today we are witnessing the changes of long-established production, logistics and trade chains, the transformation of «game rules» on raw materials and financial markets, the formation of new approaches to conducting external economic activity.

This is based on fundamental macroeconomic indicators. The BRICS countries account for almost half the world's population (2.83 billion people) and about 30% of global GDP.

National economies are showing steady positive dynamics. For example, post-pandemic China has begun to recover even faster than many expected. It is predicted that the Celestial Empire's economic growth by the end of this year could exceed 5%. In India, this indicator is expected to be almost 7% in the new fiscal year.

Contrary to pessimistic forecasts, Russian economy has proven its resilience in the face of serious external challenges and is also showing growth.

For Russian foreign trade, the BRICS countries are one of the most important, high-priority areas of cooperation.

At the same time, in terms of realizing the potential of trade and economic cooperation in the BRICS format, it is necessary to solve a number of basic systemic problems. First of all, these are issues concerning the development of transport and financial infrastructure, as well as its improvement in accordance with the new demands from business and in line with the processes taking place in the formation of a new system of economic relations in the world.

Obviously, entrepreneurs solve these problems creatively. But without proper support at the intergovernmental level, we can hardly count on the sustainable development of trade relations between the BRICS member states.

Still it is encouraging to see that many initiatives of the Business Council are further developed at the government level of the Big Five. I consider it one of the main indicators of the relevance of our work, which we conduct in nine industry areas: agriculture, infrastructure and industrial cooperation, energy and green economy, digital economy, financial services, aviation, deregulation (reducing the administrative burden), and personnel training.

It should be noted that the topics of sustainable development, responsible social management, innovations, energy and food security have recently come to the fore within the BRICS Business Council. This demonstrates that the Business Council is developing in step with the times.

– How can you assess the work of the BRICS Business Council under South African presidency this year? In August 2023, XV BRICS summit and X BRICS Business Council summit will take place in Gauteng province. What can you say about the format of the upcoming events and the Russian delegation you are leading?

– This year marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the BRICS Business Council. It is a short but very symbolic period, which shows the maturity of our structure and the potential for its further development.

This year's busy agenda of the South African presidency is yet another confirmation of the BRICS Business Council's relevance among entrepreneurs. They are particularly interested in our traditional formats, including the BRICS Business Forum and the BRICS Solutions for Sustainable Development Goals Award.

Given South Africa's presidency of the Five this year, South African Business Council Chair Busisiwe Mabuza was the guest of honor at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (CCI of Russia) session on BRICS, which we traditionally host at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

We are glad to note that the key events of the Council will take place in person (August, Johannesburg). One of the lessons of the pandemic was the realization that the online format will never replace live human communication. We are planning to arrive in South Africa with a representative delegation, which will include domestic companies from the Russian part of the BRICS Business Council, which will participate in the business program on the margins of the summit of the alliance.

– Currently, there is an active dialogue about the possibility of expanding BRICS. How do you assess the concept of expanding the alliance? What advantages can BRICS gain if new members join?

– Over the years, BRICS has become an example of true multilateralism. Today we are witnessing and directly participating in the transition to multipolarity, which has directly affected global trade. BRICS is becoming increasingly important and offers all-round cooperation for the free development of its members and partner countries. We can say that for this reason, among others, there is a queue of developing countries willing to join the «Five» including African countries. For example, Ethiopia, Algeria and Egypt have applied to join BRICS. Of course, the BRICS expansion agenda is currently relevant and is being actively discussed in the media. But issues of this nature require careful and balanced consideration. I will also remind you that the decision to admit new members to BRICS presupposes the unanimous agreement of all member countries. At the same time, we take into account that the outreach format of BRICS allows us to build productive multilateral relations with countries wishing to cooperate.

– On January 1st, 2024 the Russian Federation assumes presidency of BRICS. What are the priorities of the Business Council under your leadership? In which areas are the countries expected to expand and strengthen cooperation and which areas are the most promising, especially in view of the current geopolitical situation?

– In 2024 Kazan will host the summit of the alliance. It is still premature to talk specifically about our plans for next year, but, of course, when planning the work of the BRICS Business Council we will invariably adhere to ensuring continuity in the Five. Therefore, there is no doubt that the results of South Africa's BRICS presidency will be developed on the business agenda of the «Russian» year.

Certainly, we will continue to promote our initiatives aimed at strengthening the BRICS strategic partnership. The government is now actively developing the concept of the Russian presidency in 2024. The development of transport, logistics and the creation of the relevant infrastructure is one of the main issues in this document. It is obvious that the further economic development of BRICS will depend on the extent to which these issues are effectively resolved.

Naturally, during our presidency we will expand our dialogue on sustainable development, responsible social governance, innovation, energy and food security. As I have already mentioned, these issues are a priority in the BRICS Business Council's activities.

– And the final question. At the end of July 2023, St. Petersburg will host the second Russia-Africa summit. What goals have the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry set for this participation? What are the overall expectations from the event?

– The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia considers its primary task to contribute in every possible way to the establishment of mutually beneficial business cooperation with African countries. We are giving this work a systemic character. Practical interaction with national partner structures – chambers of commerce, confederations of chambers, and specialized business associations – is carried out.

The key element of the infrastructure of the Chamber’s international activities in the African direction are the business councils functioning under the Chamber, which are "guides" of businesses to foreign markets.

Another successful structure under the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia is the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with Africa (AFROCOM), which we suggest be used to develop bilateral relations with all countries of the continent, with which we do not have business councils.

In the fundamentally new conditions of the global foreign economic conjuncture, it is important to continue the course of expanding the presence of Russian business in Africa. It is no exaggeration to say that the potential of the African continent remains enormous, and this allows us to reorient Russian exports and occupy promising niches in African markets.

It is quite obvious that it is impossible to solve the systemic issues that have arisen (problems with logistics, settlements, and difficulties with cargo insurance) without intergovernmental dialogue, including within the framework of meetings of intergovernmental commissions (IGCs). It is important to more actively engage the business community in the formation of the current bilateral agenda of the IGCs with African countries. We reached an agreement with the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation to involve business councils under the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation in this work.

We are confident that the Russia – Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum, which will be held on July 27–28 in St. Petersburg, will be a strategically important step to create the most favorable conditions for the development of trade and economic relations between Russia and Africa, as well as to diversify the forms and directions of Russian-African cooperation.

Sergey Katyrin was born on October 2, 1954. He graduated from Moscow Automobile and Road Construction State Technical University and MGIMO School of Business. He actively took part in the establishment of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Russia, since March 2011 he has been President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation. Member of the Russian Government's Commission on Competition and the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses and member of the Public Council for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses under the Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly. Member of the Economic Council under the President of the Russian Federation, member of the Government Commission for Administrative Reform, member of the Government Commission on Import Substitution. He is the Chairman of the Russian part of the BRICS Business Council and the Chairman of the national part of the SCO Business Council from the Russian Federation, as well as a member of the Council of the Heads of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of the CIS member states. He was awarded the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland" of IV and III class, Order of Honour, Order of Friendship, the Medal "For Labour Valour", Russian Federation Presidential Certificate of Honour and other awards.