BRICS for Africa: The New Frontier for Development

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Leaders of the BRICS in a show of unity at the summit (Image credit : France 24)

South Africa played host to the 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg, bringing together leaders from the founding member nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the host country itself. The theme, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism,” positioned the continent as the forthcoming frontier for socioeconomic advancement. The summit also highlighted key priorities: unleashing the potential of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), fostering post-COVID socioeconomic recovery, and addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation.

With participation from over 60 countries, this year’s summit marked the largest gathering in the organization’s history. Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin participated remotely due to an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), of which South Africa is a signatory.

The summit adopted the Johannesburg II declaration, which emphasized inclusive multilateralism encompassing the safeguarding of fundamental freedoms, bolstering food security, and endorsing a global financial safety net, particularly to counter the issue of debt distress faced by developing economies. The declaration underscored the resolution of internal and external conflicts through peaceful means and the promotion of post-conflict reconstruction and development. A call was made for “African solutions to African problems,” with specific references to ongoing civil conflicts in Sudan and Libya.

Mutually accelerated growth, supported by BRICS’ influence within the G20 and its backing for the AfCFTA to invigorate trade and development across African nations, was also addressed in the declaration. Acknowledging Africa’s role as a low emitter and highly susceptible to climate change risks, the summit advocated for the operationalization of the Fund on Loss and Damage during the 28th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP 28 is scheduled for December in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The admission of two African countries, Egypt and Ethiopia, into BRICS, carries immense geopolitical significance for the continent’s future. These countries boast deep economic and historical ties within Africa, underscoring their relevance to the bloc. Their full membership will commence in January 2024, with other African nations like Algeria, Comoros, and Gabon also expressing interest in joining BRICS.

In essence, the desire among African nations to join BRICS is driven by the potential socioeconomic advantages such membership could bring. These benefits encompass expanded markets, access to a robust international trade framework, and enhanced collaboration to pursue common socioeconomic objectives. The push for de-dollarization also presents an appealing proposition, facilitating smoother trade among nations. Notably, the escalating interest rates in the United States have exerted pressure on local currencies, contributing to inflation and debt challenges across African nations.

Evidently, BRICS offers a fresh impetus for hastening development in Africa. Nevertheless, it remains apparent that China and Russia hold substantial interests in the continent. As a result, this endeavor could greatly benefit the nations as they aim to solidify their positions within the evolving global order. Moreover, while BRICS is committed to fostering peace and development, its involvement in domestic matters is evident. The recently concluded Russia-Africa summit highlighted the close ties between the Kremlin and certain nations, with instances of political instability, including coups in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, attributed to state and non-state actors linked to the bloc.

Furthermore, the absence of Nigeria and Kenya at this high-level summit reflects the divergent paths being pursued on the continent. Undoubtedly, the United States and the European Union are closely monitoring these developments, recognizing Africa’s significance due to its physical and human resources.

BRICS has evolved into an integral component of the global economy and political landscape. The planned expansion is poised to amplify its influence, potentially impacting the global trajectory and laying the groundwork for the emergence of new industrialized nations within Africa.

Written by Gathieri Kahuko

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