The economic scramble for Africa has taken a fresh twist after BRICS an economic bloc that brings together China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia, and India announced admission of six new members.
Speaking on Thursday, August 24, the last day of BRICS three-day summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this first expansion of the BRICS grouping since 2010.
Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates will join as members from January 1,2024.
Calls to expand the BRICS had dominated the agenda at its three-day summit in Johannesburg and exposed divisions in the bloc over the pace and criteria for admitting new members.
Chinese President Xi Jinping applauded the announcement stating the membership expansion is historic.
China is the most powerful in BRICS, which brings together non-Western states that represent a quarter of the world’s economy.
“The expansion is also a new starting point for BRICS cooperation. It will bring new vigor to the BRICS cooperation mechanism and further strengthen the force for world peace and development,” said Xi Jinping.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Ethiopia and the new BRICS members.
Further, he said the leaders discussed ways to boost ties in sectors like trade, defense, and people to people relations.
“On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of BRICS, we have taken the decision to expand this forum.
India has always fully supported this expansion. Such an expansion will make BRICS stronger and more effective. In that spirit, India welcomes Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE into the BRICS family,” said Modi.
On his part, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said BRICS is a diverse group of nations and an equal partnership of countries with differing views but a shared vision for a better world.
“As the five BRICS members, we have reached agreement on the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the BRICS expansion process.
” We have a consensus on the first phase of this expansion process,” said Ramaphosa.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed what he called “a great moment” for his country.
“Ethiopia stands ready to cooperate with all for an inclusive and prosper global order,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In Iran, senior presidential advisor Mohammad Jamshidi described the move as a “historic development and a strategic success” for Tehran’s foreign policy.
BRICS History & Agenda
Initially, the acronym BRIC did not include South Africa, it was coined in 2001 by then Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill in a research paper that underlined the growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
However, the bloc was officially founded as an informal club in 2009.
Further, it was created to provide a platform for its members to challenge United States and its Western allies which dominated majority parts of the world.
Russia initiated its creation and heads of state and government of the member nations convene annually with each nation taking up a one-year rotating chairmanship of the group.
With a combined population of 3.23 billion people, the BRICS countries make up 41% of the world’s population.
Also, BRICS claims 24% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, which measures all the goods and services a country provides over a 12-month period.
Additionally, this grouping also holds 16% of the value of global trade.
With about 126 million people (July 1,2023), Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, and one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, with an estimated 6.4% growth in FY2021/22.
Ethiopia’s strong growth rate builds on a longer-term record of growth over the past 15 years where the country’s economy grew at an average of nearly 10%er year, one of the highest rates in the world.
According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) Ethiopia is set to replace Kenya as the fourth-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa.
Further, IMF states that this is due to the easing of armed conflict in the nation and the continuation of ambitious economic reform efforts aimed at opening one of Africa’s fastest growing but most closed economies.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and the third-most-populous country in Africa, behind Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Regarding GDP, the Egyptian economy is the second largest in Africa.
However, by nominal GDP, Egypt is the third and 41st largest economy in the Africa and globally respectively.
Also, considering Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), Egypt is the 20th largest economy in the world.
Egypt is one of the world’s top wheat importers and has suffered from rising oil and grains prices. It imported most of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
East Vs West
The move by China and Russia and by extension BRICS to admit Ethiopia and Egypt to the bloc is an indicator of the two countries’ determination to wrestle Africa from America’s grip as a trade partner.
In 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act – AGOA came to life. AGOA is AU trade Program that seeks give Sub Saharan African countries preferential access to the American market.
This is through tariff-free exports to the US. China and Russia have been on charm offensive in Africa, in a bid to deflect trade ties with Western Powers. However, China’s approach of dangling loans to Africa has constantly sparked mixed feelings.
According to the IMF, “U.S. goods exports to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 were $16.6 billion, up 22.6 percent ($3.1 billion) from 2020 but down 22 percent from 2011.
U.S. goods imports from Sub-Saharan Africa totaled $28.3 billion in 2021, up 47.0 percent ($9.1 billion) from 2020, but down 62 percent from 2011,” read part of a report by United States Trade Representative.