As Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) prepared for the BRICS summit in Durban on 26-27 March, policy makers called for African countries to create a united front and demand more from their trading partners.
African governments forecast that trade and investment from BRICS countries is set to triple over the next five years, leading the group to account for a third of the continent's trade by 2018.
Policy makers and political parties say that more trade will not be enough to meet Africa's development needs and that African governments have to negotiate better deals.
Central Bank of Nigeria governor Lamido Sanusi wrote in London's Financial Times in March that his country and others need to change their strategies to see China as a competitor in global markets.
The United Nations Economic Commission on Africa's Carlos Lopes called on African leaders to put aside their differences and negotiate as a group to get better deals in large-scale land deals to emerging market companies.
Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions announced that it would hold protests outside the summit to call for protections for industry from inexpensive Chinese imports.
Divergences between the members have stopped the BRICS from developing a common front on current debates, from reform of the United Nations Security Council to the Doha round of trade talks or principles of fairness in currency valuation.
The summiteers in Durban looked to build up levels of cooperation based on areas where there is greater consensus.
Those participating in the summit will give more flesh to the plans for the BRICS Bank, which will finance infrastructure projects in BRICS countries.
South Africa's trade ministry emphasised before the summit that the new financial institution would not seek to supplant the World Bank or other international financial institutions.
Indian officials said that there is a proposal to open up shareholding in the bank to non-members, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
Plans are also underway for cooperation between thinktanks and customs agencies.
Ahead of the summit, policy makers from the member states said that the BRICS group needs a permanent secretariat to ensure follow-through between the summit meetings.
The summit also discussed the establishment of the BRICS Business Council, which will work on questions related to trade and industry●