* BRIC grouping may become BRICS
* Zuma invited to attend BRIC summit
* South African growth lags behind BRIC members
(Recasts with confirmation from minister)
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 24 (Reuters) - South Africa, Africa’s top economy, has been invited by China to join the four-member “BRIC” grouping of fast-growing emerging markets, a government minister said on Friday.
South Africa received the invitation to join the group — which currently includes Brazil, Russia, India and China — from China’s foreign minister, said a statement from South Africa’s minister of international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
China, South Africa’s largest trading partner, has invited South African President Jacob Zuma to attend a summit of BRIC leaders that Beijing will host next year, Nkoana-Mashabe said.
“China believed that South Africa’s accession would promote the development of BRICS and enhance cooperation among emerging market economies,” she said.
South Africa is the world’s 31st-largest economy, according to World Bank data for 2009 and is less than a quarter the size of the smallest BRIC economy, Russia.
The BRIC countries have sought greater clout for their grouping, holding a summit in Russia in 2009. “BRIC” is a term invented in 2001 by Jim O’Neill, the chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
South Africa applied to join BRIC at the G20 meeting of the world’s leading economies in Seoul in November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said at the meeting.
Its economy is projected by its government to grow about 3.0 percent this year, hardly the blistering pace seen in other BRIC countries.
Some investors make asset allocations based on the BRIC classification and all of the countries that currently make up the grouping have seen their global financial clout increase substantially in recent years. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz and David Dolan; Editing by Peter Graff)