By Helmo Preuss: Economist at Forecaster Ecosa
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) foreign ministers will be meeting in Cape Town on 1 and 2 June to discuss the enlargement of the group and prepare for the 15th BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August.
The theme of the Summit is “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for mutually accelerated growth, sustainable development and inclusive multilateralism”, so the foreign ministers will be focusing on inclusive multilateralism.
Already, more than 20 countries have put in applications to join BRICS on both a formal and informal basis.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has previously said that as South Africa had been the first recipient of the expansion of BRIC to BRICS in 2010, it favoured a further expansion, but as BRICS was a consensus-seeking body, any expansion had to be a unanimous decision by all members.
China, which hosted the BRICS Summit in 2022, favours the expansion and put it on the agenda for this year’s Summit. The sentiments of the Chinese government are captured in a speech given by the Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang on Africa Day, 25 May, in Beijing.
“On this day, 60 years ago, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded. This is an epoch-making event in the history of Africa and the start of a new chapter of African countries seeking strength and development through unity. At the turn of the century, the African Union (AU) took over the baton and led African countries forward with bigger strides toward development and revitalisation. With continued rise in its international status, Africa has become an important force with global influence,” he said.
In particular, Qin highlighted that “China has always been there for Africa.” This engagement with Africa is evident in the fact that at the start of every year since January 1991, the first visit by the Chinese foreign minister is to African countries. This year, Qin visited Angola, Benin, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Gabon.
Qin noted that in the past decade, President Xi Jinping visited Africa four times, while two summits of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation were held in Africa. In the last six months alone, four African presidents paid state visits to China, and since the beginning of this year, more than ten African officials above the ministerial level have visited China.
The Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference and the China-Africa Youth Festival were held.
“Sixty years on, China and Africa enjoy ever-deepening win-win cooperation, delivering more benefits to our people. China has remained Africa’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. We have, together, constructed and commissioned over 10,000 km of railway, nearly 100,000 km of highway, and an array of important infrastructure including airports, docks, bridges and power plants. These concrete deliverables have greatly promoted economic and social development and improved people’s livelihood in Africa,” Qin added.
In his plea for world peace, Qin highlighted that the closer China-Africa relations are stronger for the protection for world peace. The more successful China-Africa cooperation is, the greater the hope for global development.
“As the saying goes, when brothers are of one heart and one mind, they have the strength to break metal. The brotherly friendship between China and Africa has been tempered in struggle and tested by time. No force can break or sever this bond. In the new era, China will continue to forge ahead hand in hand with our African friends to build a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future and bring in an even brighter future of China-Africa relations,” Qin concluded.
The foreign ministers’ meetings will be preceded by the meeting of Sherpas and Sous-Sherpas from 29 to 30 May, 2023, where they prepare the agenda for the ministerial meeting. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, will as the Chair of the BRICS Ministerial Meeting continue with the policy of inclusive engagement by inviting 15 Foreign Ministers from Africa and the global south to a “Friends of BRICS” meeting to be held on 2 June 2023.
South Africa has planned some 200 events as part of its presidency of the BRICS before handing over the presidency to Russia, which will lead the BRICS in 2024.