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BRICS Summit 2023 in South Africa

August 27, 2023

As South Africa commemorates the 67th Women’s Month Anniversary, paying tribute to more than 20,000 women (Imbokodo) who marched to the Union Buildings on 09 August 1956 to fight for equality and fair representation, the country is also honoured to host the BRICS Summit in this month.

What is BRICS?

BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – a powerful grouping of emerging market economies.

The first BRIC Summit was held in Russia, where the leaders of all four countries officially declared the formation of the BRIC economic bloc. In December 2010, South Africa was invited to join the bloc, resulting in the formation of BRICS.

In the week of 22 to 24 August 2023, South Africa hosted the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg. More than 40 heads of state were invited to attend the summit along with the Presidents of BRICS member countries, President Ramaphosa, Xi Jinping, Modi, and Lula da Silva, with the notable exception being President Putin, owing to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the International Court ruling that he should be arrested for war crimes.

The BRICS nations aim to promote economic cooperation and trade, sustainable development, and political cooperation among member countries. The current main concerns for most observers are the considerations and discussions around increasing the BRICS membership.

What begs the question is, what does this information mean to the ordinary citizen on the streets? What are the concerns of these countries jostling for membership in the community of nations?

Many countries aspire to join the BRICS nations to establish an international power system equal to their economic size and correct the imbalance in the current global governance system.

BRICS is believed to be an important platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries. Emerging economies are hungry for a new world order as they have been mostly sidelined in geopolitics, particularly on trade and investment opportunities. Its goals include upholding multilateralism, reforming the global governance system, and increasing the representation and voice of these countries. Together, the BRICS nations represent over 40% of the world’s population, and it is home to a quarter of the global GDP.

We have not witnessed significant trade growth within this bloc since its formation 14 years ago. The ongoing trade conflict between the US and China has also hindered China’s growth in recent years, while the Russia-Ukraine conflict has caused instability in grain exports, particularly in Africa, leading to higher grain prices. This has resulted in a sharp increase in food prices and fuelled inflation rates, prompting the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates to unprecedented levels not seen in years, especially in the case of South Africa.

One of the summit’s objectives is rebalancing the world order and promoting bilateral trade between member countries. Despite Africa’s rich mineral resources and favourable climate conditions, the continent has not benefitted much. To address the threat of the energy crisis, South Africa must prioritise energy and solar power, which remain pressing issues for its economic growth.

The priority is to respond to the significant transformational changes in South Africa’s economy, especially in the Energy Sector. The Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for South Africa outlines measures to tackle the energy crisis to boost power generation and minimise load shedding. The plan also seeks to revamp the electricity sector, ensuring long-term energy security and promoting investment in the energy industry, which is a positive step in dealing with the crisis.

Transforming education and skills development is a key priority for BRICS nations to reduce poverty and achieve long-term development. Strengthening existing cooperation and initiatives for knowledge creation and exchange is essential to unlock future opportunities.

Increased intra-BRICS trade, investment, and tourism aim to address inequality, poverty, and unemployment. BRICS cooperation also benefits South Africa through science, technology, innovation, energy, health, education, infrastructure development, research, and skill-building.

The President of South Africa and Chair of BRICS, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and UAE will join the BRICS nation on Jan. 1, 2024, after the Summit discussions on August 24, 2023.

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