South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) wife Bongi Ngema (2nd R) welcome China's President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and wife Peng Liyuan for a working visit to South Africa, in Pretoria March 26, 2013.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (R) wife Bongi Ngema (2nd R) welcome China's President Xi Jinping (2nd L) and wife Peng Liyuan for a working visit to South Africa, in Pretoria March 26, 2013.

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - South African President Jacob Zuma and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Pretoria Tuesday ahead of the fifth summit of the five emerging economies known as BRICS.  

South Africa’s seaside city buzzed with activity Tuesday as businessmen from the five BRICS nations -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- gathered for discussions and to make deals.

But, at least on Tuesday morning, the real action was elsewhere. South African President Jacob Zuma met privately with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Pretoria base.

BRICS Factbox

The presidency issued a statement saying the two leaders signed a number of agreements Tuesday, focusing on trade, tourism, education and social cooperation.

Lynette Chen, the South Africa-based CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation, says bilateral agreements still make sense within the grouping. NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, works to foster business within Africa.

“So whilst the BRICS is a collective on a global level, will have some levels of power, but on a bilateral basis, the investments, I think, are very important to further encourage trade," Chen said. "So it’s not just about these BRICS countries investing into Africa, it’s also about what Africa can invest into those countries as well. So I think the opportunities need to be two ways and therefore these bilateral agreements are important.”

The five leaders wrap up the summit Wednesday - when they are expected to iron out details for a BRICS development bank.