Africa: Are the Balances of the World Evolving With the Brics Summit? Where Is Africa in That?

5 September 2023

Turkey — The eyes of the whole world were turned to the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22-24. Because, in the changing world dynamics, the idea of activating a strong alternative platform against the G7 is a project put on the table by several counries. The messages given at the 15th BRICS summit, the steps planned to be taken, provide us with data for the new potential polarizations that this world will evolve into. BRICS is an association of five major countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Distinguished by their emerging economies, the group has sought to improve diplomatic coordination, reform global financial institutions, and ultimately serve as a counterbalance to Western hegemony. If we take a quick look at the history of BRICS, which takes its name from the initials of the member states' names in English, is the number one goal of political and economic partnership among its members.

According to the data of the United Nations Trade and Development Organization, & of the world economy is produced in the BRICS countries (this rate was in 2010), where B of the world's population lives. It is clearly predicted that this share will increase in the coming years. It is obvious that especially China, India and Brazil will take the lead in this regard. With the new participants in 2024, the distribution of the BRICS countries in the world population will also change significantly.

The BRICS platform, which holds regular meetings at the level of state officials every year, stands out as an important forum for the development of economic, political and cultural cooperation among member countries. For now, the community is following a path based on economic cooperation. However, the BRICS community, which has expanded with the recruitment of members from a wide geography, is expected to come to the fore as a stronger actor in the global system in the future.

The two most important main items of the summit in 2023 were the expansion of the platform with the participation of new countries and the project of using common currencies against USD / Euro.

Many countries attended the summit at the level of heads of state and government, to which nearly 70 countries from around the world were invited. This year's forum came to the fore as a historic summit in terms of accepting new members.

So far, 22 countries have made official applications to become a member of the BRICS. A number of countries have also unofficially shown their interest in BRICS membership. In the first 2 days of the summit in Johannesburg, the leaders of the BRICS countries discussed the current applications and membership criteria and decided that 6 countries, Argentina, UAE, Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, should become official members of the community. With the new members joining the community as of January 1, 2024, the number of BRICS members will increase to 11 as of next year.

Another critical agenda item of the summit was the BRICS common currency, as this issue has been talked about for a long time and everyone is waiting for concrete steps. The idea of common money, which was put forward by China, which wanted to create a rival against the power and hegemony of the USD in the world, was not accepted by countries with a relatively small economy and population, such as South Africa, although it was supported by Russia as well. According to the result, it seems unlikely that this will happen in the near future. Instead of adopting a common currency, the view of trade in local currencies among member states was accepted. One of the highlights during the meetings was the necessity of a financial system that would ensure fast and secure money flow between members in local currencies. In my personal opinion, while there are clear differences in inflation rates between countries, the use of a common currency can create serious problems in the economic adaptation of countries, and even lead to monetary losses. For example, while inflation is 4.2% in Brazil, which is one of the founding members, this rate is 114% in Argentina, which will join the union as of 2024. In a scenario where both countries switch to the same currency, it is clear that serious financial disputes would arise for Argentina.

Another interesting point is the improvement of BRICS members in terms of economy and local production. When we compare the global GDP's between the G7 and BRICS countries, we see that the G7 has lost altitude significantly over the years. A major contributing factor to BRICS' rise is Chinese and Indian economic growth.

Today, despite the fact that petroleum products are gradually trying to be replaced by electricity, solar energy and alternatives in different derivatives, the BRICS platform seems to come to a serious point in the world oil market, especially with the participation of Saudi Arabia.

This year's summit was attended by significant numbers from the African continent as well. South Africa, the host country, invited nearly 70 countries, 53 of which were African countries, to the summit held under the title of "BRICS and Africa: Mutual Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Partnership for Inclusive Multilateralism". Participation in the BRICS Plus meetings held on the last day of the summit was attended by high-level delegations from all over the world, especially from African countries. While Namibia, Burundi, Chad, Zambia, Comoros, Senegal, Republic of Congo and Djibouti from the African continent attended the meeting at the level of heads of state, many other countries were represented on the platform by their foreign ministers. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also attended the summit.

On the last day of the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa met with the leaders of the Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Zambia, Burundi, Namibia, Libya, Comoros and Chad, and discussed trade and economic issues between China and Africa.

In my recent visits to Africa, it is very obvious to see that the commercial and political relations, especially in the Sub-Saharan geography, have moved away from the European Union and the US, and have evolved into the triangle of China, India and Brazil. Especially with the large Indian population living in the eastern part of Africa, there has been a serious convergence towards India. China, on the other hand, has strengthened its effectiveness in the continent with construction and infrastructure projects, and has come to a position where it continues serious activities in many fields including education and trade.

There is one thing that seems crystal clear, BRICS countries which are increasing their power day by day in terms of population, technology and economic transactions, have turned into an indispensable ally and business partner for the African continent. It seems that we will enter a period in which bilateral relations with Africa will reach a peak, especially with the participation of countries such as Egypt, UAE and Arabia.

The writer is a Turkish businessman with keen interest in Rwanda.

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