The eyes of the whole world were turned to the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 22 to 24 August.
That is 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 countries. The messages given at the 15th BRICS summit and 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, namely 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, this is the number one goal of political and economic partnership among its members.
According to the United Nations Trade and Development Organisation data, 26 percent of the world economy is produced in the BRICS countries (this rate was 18 percent in 2010), where 42 percent 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 expansion of the platform with participation of new countries and the project of using common currencies against USD / Euro. Many countries attended the summit at the level of head of state and government, and 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 two days of the summit in Johannesburg, the leaders of the BRICS countries discussed the current applications and membership criteria and decided that six 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 whence.
Another critical agenda item of the summit was the BRICS common currency, an issue that 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 because it wanted to create a rival against the power and hegemony of the USD in the world – was not accepted by countries with relatively small economies and populations, such as South Africa, but was supported by Russia as well. It seems unlikely that adopting a common currency will be achieved any time soon. Instead, use of local currencies among member states for trading was accepted.
One of the highlights of the meetings was the necessity of a financial system that can secure money flow between members in local currencies. In my personal opinion, while there are clear differences in inflation between the 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 percent in Brazil, which is one of the founding members, it is 114 percent 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 GDPs 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 be coming 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 from Africa, 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, the Comoros, Senegal, the Republic of the Congo and Djibouti attended the meeting at the level of head of state, many other countries were represented on the platform by their foreign ministers. The Secretary General of the United Nations, 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, the 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, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.