CAPE TOWN, Manufacturing forms the backbone of South Africa's economy and is an integral element in addressing some of the challenges facing the country, said President Jacob Zuma when he answered questions posed in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the upper chamber of Parliament here Thursday.

In his last session in the NCOP, according to the Parliamentary programme for the year, the president said collaboration with South Africa's fellow members of the BRICS grouping -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- with regards to manufacturing was ongoing and included inward foreign direct investment (FDI) and outward export promotion of South African products, trade relations and technical co-operation, including training programmes.

The manufacturing sectors of both India and China continued to be key drivers of broader economic and industrial growth in the global economy, he said, adding that South Africa benefited considerably from the exports of primary commodities and intermediate goods to both these economic powerhouses.

We are keen to further promote foreign direct investment, particularly from manufacturing companies in BRICS member States, said President Zuma, who added that significant progress had been registered in this regard. A good example was the significant investments made by Chinese companies into South Africa's automotive sector, estimated to be in the region of 8.0 billion Rand (about 565 million US dollars).

The government has been engaging the BRICS Think Tank Council in order to identify concrete areas of co-operation which South Africa can take forward during the country's BRICS presidency in 2018. A BRICS Network of Smart Manufacturing Hubs has been recommended and it is expected to pool together knowledge, technology and new ideas on the identification of new and inter-connected value chains.

We will indeed seek to implement the declaration as it relates to the fostering of partnerships for co-operation in Information Communications Technology (ICT) hardware, software and skills through developing the next generation of innovative solutions in the areas of smart cities, healthcare and energy-efficient devices, amongst others, said the President.

Enhanced support for the manufacturing sector will be set out in the Industrial Policy Action Plan 2018-2019 which will be announced by the Minister of Trade and Industry.

The President said South Africa looks forward to hosting the BRICS Summit next year. He said the summit will enable South Africa to take the co-operation further and enhance benefits for the country.