The BRICS Confluence: Preamble to the awaited summit

Published Aug 21, 2023


Mpho Rantao

ANTICIPATION swells as the BRICS Summit approaches, slated to convene in Sandton from August 22 to 24. With representatives from 69 invited nations poised to gather, the summit is expected to promote discourse on the reconfiguration of global power and trade.

At its 15th iteration, the summit is focused on “BRICS and Africa“. This choice acutely demonstrates the bloc’s attempts to fortify its bonds with a continent that has emerged as a competing global influence and domination.

Within the official BRICS agenda will be the principled discussion of accepting new members and expanding the economic bloc.

According to the Daily Maverick, South Africa, a stalwart in the BRICS fold, maintains an ambivalent stance towards this notion, while India and Brazil project a more jaded disposition. Contrastingly, Russia and China extend a palpably positive reception to this idea, foregrounding their proclivity for expansion.

An impressive group of nearly 40 nations has expressed interest in joining the BRICS, and 23 of these countries have formally applied. The list features countries such as Argentina, Egypt, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

While powerful financial institutions like Goldman Sachs have stopped backing the developing bloc since 2015, nations from the global south and emerging markets have taken an interest. This, coupled with the EU and US’s attitudes towards refugees and their reactions to Russia and China, has undoubtedly played a role in some developing countries’ decision to seek closer ties with these countries.

This increased interest in the development bank has been met with wariness in the Western media. The idea of a BRICS gold-backed currency to compete with the dollar rocked much of the West, which has explicitly explained the growth of China and Russia’s global economic dominance.

It is known that the bloc is united in its resentment against US financial hegemony. This intensified after the US placed sanctions on Russia.

Some experts believe that the BRICS summit will be a failure. They argue that the countries are too divided on key issues and that they will not be able to reach any meaningful agreements.

A New York Times article surmised that the summit was being held “at a time of great geopolitical uncertainty”.

“The war in Ukraine is likely to be a major topic of discussion, and the summit could be used by Russia to legitimise its invasion,” it said.

However, other Western media outlets such as The Guardian and CNN have taken a more positive view of the summit. They have argued that the summit would be an opportunity for the BRICS countries to reaffirm their commitment to co-operation.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine will overshadow the summit. Russia is a member of BRICS, and the war has put a strain on relations between Russia and the other BRICS countries. It remains to be seen how the war in Ukraine will be discussed at the summit.

There was an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which accused President Vladimir Putin of kidnapping Ukrainian children and transporting them to Russia. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, will attend the summit on his behalf.

Beside Russia’s transgressions, China is grappling with a burgeoning youth unemployment crisis and the reverberations of Evergrande’s recent Chapter 15 bankruptcy filing.

China, a pivotal constituent within BRICS, stands as the largest contributor, collectively responsible for nearly 31.5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) – a figure that eclipses the G7’s combined contribution of 30.7%.

The impending BRICS summit emerges as a pivotal juncture for the leadership of these diverse nations to convene and deliberate upon these multifarious challenges. The mandate is to sketch a trajectory that augments the welfare of nations by aligning their respective GDPs and not solely catering to the collective potency of the consortium.

The summit may also serve as an opportunity for India and South Africa to exchange tips ahead of their cricket teams’ respective Test matches against Australia later this year.