At the dawn of this year, five more countries became full members of BRICS, a transnational association which until then consisted of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and thus became BRICS+ (BRICS Plus), totalling 10 countries.
Egypt is located in north-east Africa and partly on the Sinai Peninsula, which is an isthmus to south-west Asia, thus making it a transcontinental country. It is considered a major power in North Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, the Islamic world and the Red Sea.
A populous – with 104.5 million inhabitants – historical Arab country with a long and very rich cultural heritage and at the same time the most powerful military country in Africa that controls the strategic Suez Canal.
Egypt also has huge reserves of natural gas, estimated at 2 180 cubic kilometres. Egyptian liquefied natural gas is exported to many countries.
Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa, at the eastern end of the continent. With a population of 107.5 million inhabitants, according to an official estimate for 2023, it is the most populous Mediterranean state in the world.
A poor but rapidly developing country with great geostrategic weight in Africa, which apart from its agricultural production which contributes 41% of GDP, also has the largest water resources in the entire continent.
Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa and the second-largest producer of corn.
Iran is a Middle Eastern country in south-west Asia. It has a population of 88.5 million, according to the UN average estimate for 2022.
Iran is considered a major regional power and occupies a prominent position in matters of global energy policy and economics, mainly as a result of its large oil and natural gas reserves.
Iran was the eighth-largest oil-producing country in the world in 2022 with 3 822 000 barrels per day. At the same time, it has strong armed forces and a large scientific staff stationed in key parts of the planet such as the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is on the Arabian Peninsula, occupying most of it, about 80%, and is washed by the Persian Gulf to the north-east and the Red Sea to the west. According to an official estimate for 2022, its population is 32.2million inhabitants, 30% of whom are non-Saudi citizens (2013 estimate).
Saudi Arabia’s economy is based on oil, from which approximately 75% of budget revenues and 90% of exports come. Saudi Arabia in 2022 came second in the world after the US, with a production of 12 136 000 barrels per day and holds 17% of the total proven oil reserves on a global scale.
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated UAE, is a federal state consisting of seven emirates, at the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
The UAE is washed by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and borders Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman.
They have a population of 9.3 million, according to an official estimate for 2020.
The country is rich in oil and natural gas deposits and its people enjoy an income comparable to that of developed Western countries. The UAE was the seventh-largest oil-producing country in the world in 2022 with 4 020 000 barrels per day.
As for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are among the wealthiest countries by GDP per capita, they have continued to post-economic growth despite global uncertainties, including high interest rates, inflation and geopolitical tensions, as they focus on diversifying their economies.
Saudi Arabia’s economy grew, according to the IMF, by 8.7% in 2022 – the highest annual growth rate among the world’s 20 largest economies – and by just 0.8% for all of 2023.
On the other hand, the economy of the United Arab Emirates grew by 3.4% in 2023, with oil GDP growing at 0.7% and non-oil GDP at 4.5%, supported by strong performances in tourism, real estate, construction, transport, manufacturing and increasing capital expenditure.
With this entrance, therefore, the group, which appears as the rival force in the G7, now expands in the Middle East and includes within its bosom the countries, traditional allies of the West, which now manifest tendencies towards autonomy and, of course, control a large part of the world’s production of hydrocarbons, further increasing the group’s financial strength.
Thus, the BRICS+ countries collectively now represent 45% of the world’s population with approximately 3.5 billion people, a third of the Earth’s solid surface, 44% of total global oil production as well as almost a third of global GDP, amounting to approximately $29 trillion, having surpassed in purchase equivalent terms the G7, the group of the seven most powerful economies of the developed world.
At the same time, there are at least 30 other developing world nations that have already expressed a keen interest in joining the group.
Among these countries are Algeria, Congo, Bolivia, Venezuela, Indonesia and Kazakhstan, which are not rich countries, but possess enormous mineral wealth, and would very much like to break free from the noose of Western multinational corporations and the dollar.
So, in this direction, the countries of the BRICS+ group have the New Development Bank (NDB) since 2014, while a large part of the trade between them is done in national currencies and not in dollars.
They are also moving forward with discussions and elaborations on the creation of a common currency (slowed down, however, by Indian objections). And they are still looking for alternatives for international transactions to SWIFT. As a result, all these unfolding movements gradually lead to a de-dollarisation of the global economic system.
At the next BRICS+ summit to be held in October 2024 in Kazan, capital of Tatarstan, a Russian city located at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka rivers in central European Russia, other countries – energy giants – may join the group, and this will have the effect of increasing the control of the global energy market from the 40% that it is today to a higher percentage.
The expansion of the BRICS group is causing turmoil in the countries of the West, and above all in the US, which are proceeding with knee-jerk reactions to the mere idea of the definitive loss of their global leadership.
Indeed, the expansion of BRICS is a milestone in the inevitable historical course of the formation of a new intercontinental world order, a polycentric world.
* Karderinis is a journalist, novelist and poet born in Athens.