In a challenge to the IMF and the World Bank, BRICS nations meeting in Durban have launched their own development bank. It is a hotly -disputed move, even in the member states.
"Why a new bank for the South," asks Patrick Bond. He is a political scientist from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, who helped to organize an alternative "BRICS-from-below" meeting which is running concurrently with the BRICS summit and taking a critical look at it. BRICS are a group of emerging national - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
With a protest march converging on the summit venue and discussions with activists from other BRICS nations, they are seeking to give criticism of BRICS a higher profile.
The figures they present make interesting reading. They note that "the Development Bank of Southern Africa" lost R370 million (31 million euros, $40 million) in 2012 and "was termed shoddy by its own CEO."
A new BRICS Development Bank would lead to work being duplicated among lenders and chaos. The "BRICS-from-below" activists also claim BRICS has damaged rather than benefitted the South African economy.
South Africa's finance minister confirms launch
BRICS nations agreed on the launch of the new development bank even before the summit officially started, according to South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who was speaking in an interview with eNCA (eNews Channel Africa).
At the two-day conference, BRICS leaders want to seek ways of securing greater independence from the West. Their plans include an anti-crisis fund and their own ratings agency.
Anaylsts say BRICS nations have to show they can change global power structures to the benefit of the underprivileged
In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pretoria on Tuesday, South African President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to the "comprehensive strategic partnership" between their two countries. China was now South Africa's biggest trading partner and in view of a significant deficit in bilateral trade, South Africa was now seeking "a more equitable balance of trade," Zuma said.
Patrick Bond says that global trade - to which South Africa has been exposed since the 1990s - has destroyed large sections of domestic industry, such as textiles, shoes, electrical and leather goods. Cheap imports have led to the loss of jobs and market segments. In addition, these goods are being produced under inhumane conditions in China.
Here Bond has the support of COSATU, the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions. Its leader, Zwelinzima Vavi, told South African broadcaster SABC earlier this week that his organisation regarded the new development bank with scepticism and insisted that any BRICS bank should have "fundamentally different rules to those of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank." Commentator Thekiso Anthony Lefifi, writing in the Business Times, made the comparison that "one should repair an old house before building a new one."
How much solidarity in time of crisis
Critics are also wondering whether the new development bank really will show solidarity with its members and help them. Members, no less, who are in direct competition with one another for raw materials and markets. Who can, for example, give South Africa any guarantees that its infrastructure projects will be promoted in preference to those of Brazil or India?
One argument in favor of the BRICS bank is the present fall-off in finance caused by the economic crises in the United States and Europe. Anil Sooklal is the deputy director-general of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation. "Who has the capital?" she asks, only to answer the question herself. "Exactly, the South, and that's where the money should be invested."
Abdullah Verachia, expert on BRICS at the University of Pretoria's Gordon Institute of Business Science, was also brimming with confidence about the future of the new bank. "Once the mechanisms have been clarified," he told SABC, "then there won't only be opportunities for infrastructure projects in BRICS countries, but also for change in the whole of Africa as well.