Freedom Front Plus
Freedom Front Plus

Recent BRICS summit offers few tangible outcomes for SA

(Debate in Parliament: The significance of the expanded composition of the nations comprising the BRICS Bloc to advance the south-south agenda and the transformation of the international multilateral institutions)

The recent BRICS summit has offered very few tangible outcomes for South Africa, whose BRICS membership is largely symbolic. South Africa is the smallest and economically most insignificant member of the group.

Expanding the BRICS group further reduces South Africa’s stature in favour of Egypt and Ethiopia, which have larger populations than South Africa as well as higher economic growth rates even though their economies are smaller.

The BRICS summit held in August was basically a diplomatic victory for the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, who managed to secure an expansion of the Bloc’s membership.

It remains to be seen whether the five-nation Bloc’s decision to welcome Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates into the group in early 2024 will bring about any kind of political and economic force within this international order.

With the addition of these six countries, BRICS now represents 42% of the world’s population and 36% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Some may consider China’s ambition to expand the BRICS membership as an attempt at establishing a counterpart for the G7.

China has, however, created something much more akin to the G20 – a large group without a secretariat with legal authority over their decisions, so, consensus can often not be reached.

The expansion of BRICS may pose more challenges than offer opportunities for its founding members, particularly when it comes to creating alternative institutions to the current world order.

Much is made of the possibility of a shared BRICS currency, but it is doubtful whether it will find any favour.

In the first place, it implies that the BRICS countries will hold greater sums of each other’s currencies, but it is unclear whether any member of the newly expanded BRICS countries would want to purchase Russian rubles, even if they could.

In addition, the Chinese yuan is still struggling to meaningfully internationalise for its closed capital markets.

Since the euro was introduced in 2022, the currency had a very small impact on the sheer dominance of the American dollar. So, it seems unlikely that a new, alternative currency would make much of a difference.

The inclusion of Iran is a serious cause for concern seeing as it reinforces the group’s anti-Western reputation and burdens it with yet another prominent member facing American sanctions.

While Russia is dealing with economic sanctions and international condemnation for its war on Ukraine, BRICS has become an important forum for Moscow to demonstrate that it is not internationally isolated.

Russia needs BRICS to expand so that Moscow can promote its own foreign policy.



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