BRICS has started its summit – a meeting with serious promises to an expected new world order. Hopes centering the summit are high around the world. The 15th BRICS Summit is now taking place in Johannesburg’s financial district of Sandton.
The summit in South Africa is going to deal with issues having serious implications on developments around the world. It will also focus on vital issues of the planet including the climate crisis. Countries from the Global South are hugely enthusiast about outcomes of the summit.
Originally consisting of Brazil, Russia, India and China, BRICS has only expanded once, when it added South Africa in 2010, without any prior conditions. Member states are currently discussing internally what criteria candidates should meet and how the expansion process would work, given that BRICS takes decisions by consensus.
BRICS members account for some 40% of the world population and, according to experts’ forecasts, in 2023 the “Big Five” will account for about 31.5% of global GDP (at purchasing power parity).
South Africa, which is the current BRICS chair, has invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, as well as leaders from 66 other countries, to the five-nation bloc’s summit later this month in Johannesburg.
This year, a whopping 67 heads of states, including 53 from Africa, as well as others including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Indonesia and Iran, have been invited to the forum.
China Wants BRICS To Rival G7, Says Financial Times
China plans to push for the BRICS bloc to become a full-fledged rival of the G7 during its summit in South Africa, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
According to unnamed sources, China has allegedly “clashed” with India over the prospect of expanding the group’s membership in the run-up to the summit, which has begun in Johannesburg on August 22. The summit will conclude on August 24.
The British newspaper noted that there is no agreement between Beijing and New Delhi on whether BRICS — which currently comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, — should be a non-aligned economic club or a political force that openly challenges the West.
South African officials reportedly told the Financial Times that 23 countries had expressed interest in joining BRICS, some of which could receive invitations to the Johannesburg summit. Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia were named as favorites to become the bloc’s first new members, since the inclusion of this year’s summit host in 2010.
“If we expand BRICS to account for a similar portion of world GDP as the G7, then our collective voice in the world will grow stronger,” an unnamed Chinese official told the Financial Times.
Earlier this month, New Delhi dismissed media reports that it opposed the expansion of the bloc, with Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi describing them as “baseless speculation.”
“As mandated by the leaders last year, BRICS members are internally discussing the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for the BRICS expansion process on the basis of full consultation and consensus,” Bagchi pointed out.
A senior Brazilian diplomat also told the Financial Times that the country supported the expansion of BRICS, but noted that “it is important that criteria are defined for the entrance of these new members.”
Last week, South Africa’s ambassador to BRICS, Anil Sooklal, dismissed claims that the bloc is “anti-West” and looking to compete with the G7. “What we do seek is to advance the agenda of the Global South and to build a more inclusive, representative, just, fair global architecture,” he explained.
In early August, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Russia believes that “in one form or another, the expansion of BRICS will contribute to the further development and strengthening of this organization.”
China Favors BRICS Expansion, Says Russian Media
China wants to see new members join BRICS, Chinese diplomats have told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
In recent months, more than a dozen countries have expressed an interest in joining the alliance of major emerging economies, currently comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
On Monday, the Russian outlet quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s press office as saying: “China has always been convinced that BRICS is an open and inclusive mechanism, Beijing supports the process of BRICS expansion and welcomes the accession of more like-minded partners into the ‘big-family’.”
According to Chinese officials, they see the “development of BRICS cooperation” and the promotion of “peace, stability and prosperity around the world” as the prime purpose of the upcoming event.
Earlier this month, South Africa, which is currently chairing the group, reportedly said it was open to the idea of Iran joining the club.
According to Iran’s Mehr news agency, President Cyril Ramaphosa told Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian that his country “is interested in Iran being accepted as a member of BRICS as a friendly country.”
Ramaphosa expressed support for Tehran’s membership bid during talks with Amirabdollahian at the 15th meeting of the Joint Commission of the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa in Pretoria.
In recent months, several countries, including Argentina, Algeria, Egypt and Türkiye, have hinted that they may seek BRICS membership.
BRICS Aiming For Just, Multipolar World Order, Says Lavrov
Attempts by the “collective West” to preserve its hegemony have had the opposite effect, encouraging the real “world majority” to dismiss and reject the exploitation of their resources by foreign states, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has argued.
“Tectonic shifts are taking place in the world today. We are witnessing the emergence of a more just multipolar world order,” Lavrov wrote in an article – BRICS: Towards a Just World Order – for South Africa’s Ubuntu magazine on August 21 ahead of the BRICS Summit, which opens in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Lavrov called BRICS a “symbol of true multipolarity” for many like-minded countries, which serves as a “positive force that can strengthen the solidarity of the Global South and Global East and become one of the pillars of a new, more just polycentric world order.”
“The international community is tired of the blackmail and pressure from the Western elites and their colonial and racist manners,” Lavrov wrote. “That is why, for example, not only Russia, but also a number of other countries are consistently reducing their dependence on the U.S. dollar, switching to alternative payment systems and national currency systems.”
Russia has “consistently stood for strengthening the position of the African continent in a multipolar world order,” according to Lavrov, who promised that Moscow “will further support our African friends in their aspirations to play an increasingly significant role in resolving the key problems of our time.”
According to Lavrov, the BRICS partnership is gaining momentum, offering many creative initiatives aimed at ensuring food and energy security, healthy growth of the global economy and conflict resolution – although the group does not aim to replace existing international mechanisms, much less to become a new “collective hegemon.”
Lavrov highlighted that BRICS’ ability to influence the global agenda are determined by objective factors: first, the population of the BRICS countries is over 40%; second, the group’s territories exceed a quarter of the world’s land; third, in 2023 BRICS is estimated to account for about 31.5% of global GDP (at purchasing power parity), while the share of the group of major industrialized nations comprising the Group of Seven has fallen to 30%. According to some estimates, the combined GDP of the BRICS countries in 2023 will exceed $27.6 trillion.
At the same time, the Russian foreign minister emphasized that BRICS does not aim to replace existing multilateral mechanisms, let alone become a new “collective hegemon”. On the contrary, the BRICS countries have consistently advocated the creation of conditions for the development of all states, which excludes the Cold War-style “blocs” approach and zero-sum geopolitical games. “BRICS seeks to offer inclusive solutions based on a participatory approach,” Lavrov stressed.
Countries That Want to Join BRICS
Twenty-three countries have formally applied for membership, which will be discussed at the 15th summit of the group. As South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday: “South Africa supports the expansion of the membership of BRICS.”
Earlier, over 40 countries, including Bolivia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon, and Kazakhstan, all expressed their desire to join the club of the major developing economies.
Among those who jumped at the opportunity to officially apply are Argentina, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Iran, and Indonesia.
An incentive to expand the group stems from the tectonic geopolitical changes which started to take shape during the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerated after the beginning of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine. A series of sweeping Western sanctions slapped on Russia have further disrupted the already fragile supply chains and global trade, hurting tremendously the countries of the Global South. The latter started to consider BRICS as an alternative platform for the world economy and lined up for membership in an organization that is expected to grow larger over time.
Remarkably, many of the new BRICS applicants are from Africa. Previously, Wang Wenbin, a Chinese politician and diplomat who currently serves as a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, placed emphasis on the development, stating that the 15th summit would focus on the deepening partnership between BRICS and Africa to promote mutual growth, achieve sustainable development, and strengthen inclusiveness and multilateralism.
A BRICS common currency will not be on the 15th summit’s agenda, as per Anit Sookal, South Africa’s ambassador at large for Asia and BRICS. The top diplomat told journalists last month that even though the common currency project would not be discussed at the August gathering, BRICS nations would continue to move away from the U.S. dollar.
BRICS And The World Economy
Increased turnover of national currencies in international economic transactions, de-dollarization, the improvement of payment mechanisms, as well as the strengthening of the role of the New Development Bank and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement are the key economic topics that will be discussed in detail at the group’s 15th summit.
New Development Bank
Last week, the South African Finance Ministry suggested that the New Development Bank (NDB), set up by the BRICS member states, should increase local-currency fundraising and lending. Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told Reuters news agency that Pretoria was planning to raise the issue at the summit in Johannesburg.
Purpose Of The New Development Bank
At the 15th summit, the BRICS nations are expected to consider boosting local currency funding and lending within the New Development Bank (NDB) to thwart the impact of foreign exchange volatility and the US dollar’s unexpected strength driven by aggressive interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Fed’s borrowing cost hikes backfired on emerging economies that take loans and buy basic commodities denominated in US dollars, bolstering the Global South’s determination to drift away from the greenback.
The New Development Bank – formerly known as the BRICS Development Bank – was established in 2015 by BRICS nations with the aim of mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs).
In 2018, the African Regional Center of the NDB in South Africa was opened; in 2019, 2020 and 2022, similar structures were established in Brazil, Russia and India. In March 2020, the bank launched a $10 billion assistance program to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome its socio-economic consequences.
As of January 30 this year, the NDB had approved 83 investment projects totaling more than $30.1 billion. Most recently, South Africa has received 100 billion rands ($5.27 billion) from the bank for the construction of roads, water supply and energy, as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.
Strategy For BRICS’ Economic Partnership
The Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025 (or BRICS Strategy) was adopted by the five BRICS member-states in November 2020, defining steps to jointly address new global challenges, including macroeconomic shocks and financial volatility.
The BRICS nations vowed to stimulate strong economic growth and support the multilateral trading system based on the rules and principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) while resisting unilateral and protectionist measures that contradict the spirit and rules of the WTO.
BRICS Strategy also focuses on digitization that helps raise effectiveness and economic competitiveness, improve living standards, and overcome cumulative social, economic, and infrastructure imbalances, in order to ensure sustainable growth.
The strategy’s major principles include full respect for the economic sovereignty of the member states; commitment to international law; openness, sharing of information and consensus in decision-making; recognition of the multipolar nature of the international economic and financial system; commitment to supporting sustainable development, strong, balanced and inclusive growth; as well as a commitment to mutually beneficial cooperation within BRICS.
“The Strategy for Economic Partnership 2025, which defines the benchmarks of cooperation in the mid-term, is being implemented,” as Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov noted in his latest article.
Since January 1, South Africa has been chairing BRICS under the motto: “BRICS and Africa: a partnership for joint accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism.”
South African chairing priorities include the strengthening of multilateralism; reform of global governance institutions; post-pandemic economic recovery; sustainable development and exploring the potential of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement; deepening cooperation in the spheres of equitable energy transition and combating climate change; as well as transforming of education and increasing the meaningful participation of women in peace processes.