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Cities in the BRICS: What are we comparing?

When: Friday, 23 September 2016 - Friday, 23 September 2016
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
Wits Anthropology Museum, Central Block
Start time:13:00

The Wits City Institute will host a seminar to be presented by Dr Yan Yang, Wits City Institute Honorary Research Fellow.

When Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs invented the term BRIC in 2001, he was using it as an analytical construct to refer to large emerging economies experiencing rapid growth rates with the potential to change the nature of the global economy. In 2009, BRIC was used to refer to a political alliance. In 2010 South Africa joined the alliance and BRIC became BRICS.

However, South Africa had a small and slow growing economy, and BRICS no longer held as an analytical construct. By 2016, even the idea of the original BRIC grouping was no longer true – Brazil and Russia are in an economic recession, and China's growth has slowed considerably, although India is the exception as it is still experiencing accelerating growth.

Today the BRICS is a diverse grouping of countries with very little in common analytically speaking. Across the BRICS urban processes and challenges are very different, and yet various forums and studies are investigating BRICS cities in comparative terms.

This includes the study on “BRICS Cities: Fact Sheets and Analysis” which Yang is project managing on behalf of the South African Cities Network (SACN) in a partnership also with the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning (SA&CP) at Wits. As Jennifer Robinson has argued, comparison need not be about places which have obvious similarities. However, in the case of the BRICS there is one key point of similarity. The different and similar outcomes provide a key point of comparison between the cities in these countries.

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