On Thursday, August 24th, the BRICS group of developing nations agreed to include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates as new members.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the addition of these nations on the final day of the summit held in Johannesburg from August 22–24.
The group’s leadership indicated a possibility for further expansion, hinting that many nations, driven by their aspiration to balance an uneven global landscape, might join in the future.
Starting in January 2024, the six new countries will officially join the BRICS group.
President Ramaphosa stated, “We value the interest of other countries in building a partnership with BRICS. Our foreign ministers have been tasked to further develop the BRICS Partners Country model and a list of potential partner countries.”
He added, “BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous.”
This expansion increases BRICS’ economic clout, given that its current membership includes economic powerhouses such as China, Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa.
The group now represents approximately 40% of the world’s population and contributes to over a quarter of global GDP.
BRICS’ Strategic Expansion
While the BRICS leadership acknowledges the potential for more member countries, the shared goal is uplifting the Global South. Yet, the alliance faces internal dynamics: some members view BRICS as a counterweight to Western powers, while others maintain robust ties with the United States and Europe.
China’s President Xi Jinping praised the membership enlargement, emphasizing BRICS’ dedication to unity among developing nations.
In a statement, he mentioned, “This membership expansion is historic. It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”
Oil-rich nations like Saudi Arabia and UAE joining BRICS marks their shifting global orientation, potentially moving away from traditional U.S. influences.
The inclusion of specific countries reflects the strategic priorities of existing members. For example, Brazil strongly advocated for Argentina, while Russia and India have significant trade relationships with Egypt.
Iran’s entry also indicates a deeper connection between Russia and Iran, especially in light of shared challenges such as the U.S.-led sanctions.
Ethiopia’s entry, which aligns closely with China, exemplifies South Africa’s commitment to enhancing Africa’s representation in global dialogues.
Although BRICS emphasizes its non-competitive stance with other blocs, Russian President Vladimir Putin, attending the summit remotely, highlighted the resistance to change.
Putin said, “BRICS is not competing with anyone. But it’s also obvious that this process of the emergence of a new world order still has fierce opponents.”
BRICS and International Dynamics
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who was present during the announcement, aligned with BRICS’ call for revamping major global institutions, including the U.N. Security Council, IMF, and World Bank.
However, the alliance is not without its challenges. Discrepancies in economic prowess and divergent foreign policies among its members have occasionally obstructed BRICS’ shared objectives.
Around 50 global leaders and heads of state attended the summit in South Africa. The summit, which concluded on Thursday, echoed a collective belief in BRICS’ burgeoning influence.
The Evolution of BRICS
BRICS’ foundation traces back to 2006 when the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, and China met during the United Nations General Assembly.
Jim O’Neill, a Goldman Sachs economist, coined “BRIC” in 2001, foreseeing these nations as dominant economies likely to influence the global economy significantly by 2050.
The first official BRIC summit took place in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009, focusing on mutual concerns such as economic cooperation, trade, and investment. By 2010, South Africa had become a member, evolving the acronym to BRICS.
Analysts frequently juxtapose BRICS with the G7 countries -U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.K. – comprising the world’s advanced economies. As of 2023, according to the group’s statement, BRICS surpassed the G7 in their contribution to global GDP.
Prospects and Future Endeavors
Leaders from BRICS countries convene annually, aiming to influence their nations’ political-economic landscape favorably.
Key initiatives include the BRICS Business Council, the Contingent Reserve Agreement for short-term liquidity support, and the New Development Bank to fund projects in BRICS countries.
Additionally, the group is keen on reducing global reliance on the U.S. dollar.
The Possibility of a New Currency for BRICS
Amidst a push for alternate economic structures independent of Western systems, the recent summit stressed “de-dollarization”—reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar and promoting national currency in global trade.
The aspiration is to lessen dollar reliance, with Russia and China particularly eager to decrease America’s global financial sway.
At a BRICS meeting in June, South Africa’s foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, expressed that the bloc’s New Development Bank would scout for alternatives “to the current internationally traded currencies.”
However, the group has stated that while the possibility of a unique currency has been discussed, it is not currently on the summit’s agenda.
Following the U.S. sanctioning of Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, the consideration of a new currency gained momentum. “A common currency among BRICS nations could lead to the establishment of stronger economic ties and new geopolitical alliances, further solidifying their position as a rising power de-dollarization coalition,” the group expressed.
Prospective Members and the Road Ahead
More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, and 23 have officially applied. By aligning with BRICS, they hope to tap into economic benefits that surpass traditional Western economic paradigms.
Expansion was a central theme at the South African summit, with discussions on the pace and scale of growth. While countries like China and Russia have traditionally supported a larger BRICS to counter Western influence, others like Brazil and India favor a more balanced approach to global dynamics.