“Africa has been excluded in all processes in the centuries that have come and passed. For the first time it is part of a serious grouping as represented by South Africa,” Zuma said, referring to the BRICS group which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
He rejected the suggestion that the summit was just another talk shop, saying the get together was capable of making critical economic and political decisions.
“Not long ago we discussed the formation of a developmental bank… Today we are ready to launch it,” he said.
BRICS member nations were expected to contribute $10 billion in seed money to set up the lending institution.
South Africa joined BRICS in 2011 and is the smallest economy in the grouping, accounting for 2.5 percent of the total BRICS gross domestic product.
Africa’s largest economy is blighted by slow economic growth, which lags its African and emerging markets peers and crippled by high unemployment.
Together the BRICS account for 25 percent of global GDP and 40 percent of the world’s population.
“Today you cannot discuss anything and ignore the fact that there is BRICS. It brings in another weight … in the world,” he said.
Zuma said intra-BRICS trade had increased in recent years, adding to the economic significance of the grouping.
Russia and China’s presidents will pair the meeting with official visits to Pretoria, South Africa’s seat of government, where they will separately sign deals on defence, energy, science and technology.
The summit will host 19 leaders, including several African heads of state.