It was elation all round at the Sandton International Convention Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg as the BRICS Summit concluded by a huge expansion of no less than six new member nations. The Summit of the developing nations agreed on Thursday to admit Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates in a move aimed at accelerating its push to reshuffle a world order it sees as outdated.

By Simamkele Njo

The 15th Summit of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa (BRICS) nations came to a close in Sandton, Johannesburg as a resounding success – all member states head of government have said.

In existence for a mere decade, the body appears to be well on its way to its stated objective of “dominating the global economy by 2050.”

With over 40 000 km2 combined area of land and an estimated total population of about 3.21 billion, an already noticeable formation, BRICS has approved an additional six member states from January 2024.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the BRICS nations would rival the continued dominance of global trade by the G7 nations. The IMF expects BRICS to account for over a third  (32.1%) of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2023.

This is expected to grow by leaps and bounds with the world biggest oil producing nations of the middle east Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran, together with Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia as the new BRICS member nations.

Closing the Summit, a jubilant South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa officially welcomed the new members.

News 24, quotes Chinese President Xi Jinping in the same buoyant mood. He is reported to have said BRICS popularity was growing and the collaboration between these nations would help advance global prosperity and peace,  “years to come are expected to be promising for BRICS countries,” he is quoted as saying.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated the new members, saying, “India has always supported the expansion of BRICS. India has always believed that adding new members will strengthen BRICS as an organisation,” he said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said the interest of other countries to join the BRICS organisation showed how relevant its pursuit for a new world economic order is.

“We will remain open to new candidates,” Lula said.

His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, speaking last via video conference, praised the host president Ramaphosa for his  political acumen and negotiating skills. Putin said Ramaphosa’s handling of discussions, particularly the question of growth, were praise worthy. He congratulated the new  BRICS member nations.

The barrage of praise on Ramaphosa did not go well with some in the South African political analysis field. Independent political analyst, Prof Sipho Seepe says South Africa was junior partner made to do errands for the bigger players.

“New markets are opened up for BRICS’ partners as a result of their growth. However, how well the partners are able to make use of the opportunities this presents will determine that. Ramaphosa has publicly said that there has been a considerable increase in trade between China and South Africa. This is only a small portion of the narrative. The main focus of the tale is the difference in trade between the two nations, with South Africa relegated to serving as a warehouse for Chinese-manufactured goods,” Seepe told The Telegram.

 “Ramaphosa is bereft of ideas. The only thing that he is able to do is to use every event as a photo opportunity and just another public relations exercise. As matters stand, loadshedding is destroying South African companies. Until we are able to set the country on the industrialisation agenda, these gatherings are meaningless,” he added.

On the international front, Al Jazeera reports that analysts believe that one of the countries that could benefit from a trading regime outside of dollar dominance is Iran.

“Iran will clearly benefit the most,” said Na’eem Jeenah, a senior researcher at the South African think tank, Mapungupwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.

He said its inclusion “highlights the fact that it’s not as politically isolated as the US wants it to be”.

Its inclusion could also be an “economic lifeline” due to increased bilateral trade.

“Members would start trading with each other in their own currencies. For Iran, this would be great,” he said.

Jeenah added that Argentina was a “shoe-in” as its inclusion was championed by Brazil, China and India. Among the African states, he said analysts expected Algeria, which has oil reserves, or Nigeria, which is the continent’s most populous country and leading economy, could have been included.

Cheta Nwanze, a partner at SBM Intelligence, a geopolitical advisory that focuses on West Africa, said of Nigeria’s exclusion, “I think it’s an indictment of our foreign policy, or the lack of it thereof. We used to be very pan-African in our foreign policy, that has changed”.

“One thing that is very clear is that most of the rest of Africa – with the exception of maybe Nigeria and Kenya – are moving away from the West and towards the East. We are sticking in the Western camp without saying it explicitly, but more importantly without getting any benefits from being in the Western camp,” he told Al Jazeera.

Jeenah said the inclusion of Ethiopia, a country with one of the fastest-growing economies, that also hosts the headquarters of the African Union, “makes sense in those terms”.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are similar to India and, to some degree, South Africa, in that “these are countries that have one foot in BRICS and another foot in the West”, Jeenah said. But Saudi Arabia, in particular, is “positioning” itself in a way that shows it is not just in the American camp.

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