Prior to South Africa’s inclusion, the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India, and China—held their inaugural official meeting in 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Subsequently, South Africa received an invitation and joined the group in 2010, leading to the formation of BRICS. As a result, the first formal BRICS meeting involving all five nations took place in 2011 in Sanya, China.
The presence of COVID-19, coupled with the Russia-Ukraine conflict and other global instabilities, has underscored the increased importance of collaborative endeavors among nations, regardless of geographical, economic, political, or social differences. While numerous international collaborations exist, only a select few operate at a fully operational and impactful level. Remarkably, BRICS distinguishes itself due to its notable influence on both regional and global affairs, attributed to the substantial population, vast landmass, abundant natural resources, and rapidly advancing economies and politics of its member states. The establishment of this consortium aimed to foster enhanced cooperation and joint initiatives among its constituent countries across economic, political, and social spheres. The fundamental goals of BRICS encompass advancing economic growth, strengthening trade and investment ties, and advocating for a more equitable and unbiased global order.
“We do not want to be counterparts with others, we want to organize ourselves” President V. Putin
BRICS convenes annual summits where the leaders of member nations gather to discuss various matters of shared interest and concern. These summits provide a platform for member countries to exchange ideas, explore collaboration opportunities, and address common challenges. Over time, BRICS has expanded its scope of cooperation beyond economics to encompass political and security aspects.
Despite their diverse backgrounds and priorities, the BRICS countries share a common interest in challenging the dominance of traditional Western powers in global institutions and pushing for reforms that reflect the evolving global economic and political landscape. They have established various mechanisms for cooperation, including the New Development Bank (NDB)/ BRICS Development Bank, which aims to provide funding for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in member countries and other emerging economies.
Why do many countries seek membership?
The 15th BRICS summit in Johannesburg stands out due to the notable approval of six new member nations: Ethiopia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Argentina. Aljazeera’s report highlights that prior to the summit, a remarkable 40 countries had expressed interest in becoming part of the bloc, with 23 of them formally submitting membership applications. This raises a fundamental question: What draws numerous countries to seek affiliation with this bloc?
BRICS holds greater appeal to developing countries, owing to numerous compelling factors, particularly for a majority of African and Asian nations. China and Russia’s increasing influence within African and Asian countries enhances the attractiveness of aligning with these nations within the same bloc. Moreover, the fact that the founding member countries are more diversified from different perspectives is also another pulling factor. Moreover, China and India are the major net trading partners for most African countries. The FDI flow from these countries is also growing at an alarming rate and Africa is the main destination place for Chinese and Indian investors.
De-dollarization is another appealing factor for most countries to be attracted. The Russian news agency TASS reported in June, Egypt submitted the membership application given its interest in de-dollarization. The sanctions and virtual control by the USA through forced dollar transactions forced many countries to look for an alternative. President William Ruto (on June 14) asked “How is the US dollar part of trade between Kenya and Djibouti”. Thus, for BRICS+ member countries dethroning the dollar will be one of the main objectives pushed forward especially by China and Russia, with interest from other member and non-member countries. The dollar may stay for a long time as the reserve currency, but the hope is the new BRICS currency can share spot along. However, it might complex than it sought to be.
BRICS; collectively have higher Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) compared to the G7 countries which underscores the economic significance and potential influence of the BRICS nations in the global economy. Despite their significant GDPs, the BRICS countries are said to possess only 15% of the total voting power in international multilateral organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This disparity in voting power leads to a situation where emerging economies, including BRICS members, feel that their influence in decision-making is disproportionately low compared to their economic weight. The concentration of power and influence in a handful of countries within the IMF and WB creates an imbalance in the global economic governance system. This imbalance can lead to decisions and policies that may not fully consider the perspectives and interests of emerging economies and developing nations. The perceived imbalance and interference by Western countries have prompted some countries, to seek alternative avenues for economic cooperation and development. Particularly the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) by BRICS nations, which aims to provide funding for infrastructure and development projects in emerging economies is an attracting force.
Why it is big news for Ethiopia?
Since his Excellence Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D) assumed the country’s highest power, the country has faced many ups and downs both internally and externally. Coupled with many other reasons the diplomatic relationship with the West particularly with the US has deteriorated. Not only the aid and cooperative funding, but also getting loans from the international mega financial institutions like the WB and IMF, which are predominantly, dominated by the West become harder. Thus, joining the bloc would make the country more important from a geopolitical point of view and might play a role in forcing the West to revise its policy towards the country.
“… it would be a major coup for Ethiopia if it were able to join BRICS as it raises its global profile, allow it to interact and coordinate more closely with some of the major world power…” P. Carmody on the Conversation
Ethiopia is among the fastest-growing countries of the world even in this hard time. Even though the role of the Western countries is reducing the involvement of China and India among others is alertly increasing. Furthermore, these two countries are the main trading partners. Thus, being in the same bloc might promote higher openness and stronger cooperation, moreover, it might lead to greater trust and a clear path for mutual business cooperation.