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"Xi Jinping sees Africa, and South Africa in particular, as a region of special interest where China continues to play a supporting role", said Ramaphosa.

"We should be resolute in rejecting unilateralism", Xi said at the opening ceremony. The rand and the real are the worst-performing currencies of the five as Washington and Beijing fire trade-war salvos at each other.

"China is ready to invest and work with South Africa in various sectors, such as infrastructure development, ocean economy, green economy, science and technology, agriculture, environment and finance", Ramaphosa told reporters.

China's president Xi Jinping and his delegation signed about $14 billion [about R187 billion] worth of investment commitments with South Africa - and the two enterprises were at the centre of the bilateral agreements.

"Brics is a way to build financial development where Brics countries don't have to go to the World Bank for funding", Mathekga said.

Signalling diplomatic rivalry over influence in Africa, PM Modi visited Rwanda and Uganda on his own five-day tour of the continent including the BRICS summit.

The BRICS group, comprising more than 40 per cent of the global population, represents some of the biggest emerging economies, but it has struggled to find a unified voice.

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Trump has said he is ready to impose tariffs on all US$500 billion of Chinese imports, complaining that China's trade surplus with the U.S. is due to unfair currency manipulation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa warned the BRICS countries about the challenges for developing countries emanating from the "rise in unilateral measures which are incompatible with World Trade Organisation rules".

In just three years, the bank has issued $5.7 billion (R74.98bn) in loans to BRICS member countries, and intends on increasing that amount to $15bn in the next three years.

South African Trade Minister Rob Davies said the country was suffering collateral damage from the U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminium.

The US has also imposed duties on South African steel and aluminium products, citing national security concerns, while tariffs on automotive products have been mooted.

The Brics bloc includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. This was in sharp contrast to the $60-billion outward investment by South Africa to Brics countries.

"BRICS has the strategic potential to re-shape world trade".