By Musanjufu Benjamin Kavubu
Finally, the 15th annual BRICS summit is happening, and it is taking place on the African continent. There has been a lot of talk about it this time as though it’s happening for the first time but that is because of where the world finds itself at the moment. Ukraine-Russia crisis is impacting everything and the BRICS summit is not unique to the fact after all the “R” in the “BRICS” is at the forefront of what the Kremlin has eloquently blamed on what they call NATO’s eastward expansion spree which threatens Moscow’s national and strategic interests. There is no doubt, this ongoing crisis which the west is fueling pumping arms into Ukraine has changed public opinion about the current World Order which the BRICS sees as biased to them.
BRICS started in 2001 as BRIC and it got its name from a report by Jim O’Neill who was an economist at Goldman Sachs and he predicted then that Brazil, Russia, India, and China would be the world’s leaders economically by 2050 because of the trajectory the four countries economies where taking. In 2010 South Africa joined to form the current BRICS that the whole world is talking about now which analysts argue it puts the G7 on spot especially that unlike G7, BRICS in all ways stands for the interests of the so-called emerging economies while speaking for entire global south.
Russia’s military operation in Ukraine is not the only reason the 15th BRICS summit is making headlines, but global problems like climate change are key to the agenda and also the over 40 requests from countries to join the formation is keeping the West on its heels.
At the moment, the formation is made up of about a population of 3.2 billion humans that can be also termed a labor force and market, a GDP of $ 24.44 Trillion that seems small compared to the population but an average of $ 7,500 GDP per capita is a dream for many in the global south especially in Africa.
At a time when the world is looking for an alternative to the current world order that is shaped by the US dollar the way BRICS operates seems like the best option going forward. It’s rumored that Egypt, Algeria, Argentina, and Iran are close to membership then it’s a matter of time before everyone jumps onto the formation. Every developing country would desire this kind of forum that offers consultation and cooperation on significant economic and political issues between member countries and seems to be working.
Through the annual BRICS summit like the 15th South of the African continent, we should expect working groups on areas such as finance, trade, investment, science and technology, and health to set up and they are open to even those countries who are just willing to join. These working groups will then continue to meet as they from time to time identify areas of mutual interest and coordinate their efforts to foster inclusive development a major tenet of the BRICS.
As the formation meets on the African continent BRICS fits the current narrative by African leaders of complete independence from the West’s domination. BRICS members agreed at the start and going forward to strive for inclusive economic growth and to eradicate poverty, to fight unemployment, promote social inclusion, promote innovative economic development based on new technologies like blockchain and develop skills of citizens at the same time strongly cooperating with other countries.
Africa has a chance not to leave anyone behind through the BRICS formation since the ground in the group has proven the antithesis of elitism with its original intention of a restructured political, security, and economic outlook of the world. Africa also has conditions that are in line with the founding members of the BRICS for example fastest growing and emerging economies like Nigeria that is seeking membership, low labor costs that is being brain and muscle drained to Europe, favorable demographics of youths, and natural resources. These conditions need economic cooperation and development through multilateralism to have win-win situations at the end of the day.
To Africa, BRICS through the New Development Bank NDB can offer funding for infrastructure and sustainable development projects as it relives the pressure created by the Bretton Woods systems institutions like the IMF and World Bank that recently decided to stop funding in places like Uganda. For those countries that will go on to attain full membership, BRICS has the Contingent Reserve Arrangement CRA which is a financial safety net that provides liquidity support to members in case of balance of payment difficulties.
As AfCFTA works by boosting intra-African trade from 12% to 30% BRICS through Bilateral and Multilateral areas of trade, investment, technology transfer, Cultural exchange, and matters of security the Free trade Area on the continent can be unstoppable. BRICS along AfCFTA with the free movement of people would bring about people-to-people exchange programs and then foster research and innovation. Cultural exchange, enhance economic and social ties within the formation to create countries that can take on the West. Maybe even the International Criminal Court would be restructured and made to make more sense than being a tool for the West.
Apart from offering hope to Africa and the entire global south BRICS is so important that it offers a workable framework that can be exploited for real and true development that is inclusive. With BRICS bringing Africa on board the world Rebalancing will not be just a song but a reality. As Modi of India, Xi of China, Lula of Brazil, Ramaphosa of South Africa, and Putin is being represented by maybe Lavrov, since he has a war to attend to and just survived a mutiny come together BRICS through the NDB can start the process of dollarisation in Africa where US designed sanctions are used and hurt most.
By Musanjufu Benjamin Kavubu is a Junior Research Fellow at the Sino-Uganda Research Centre.