LEADERS from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which make up the handy moniker Brics, have their 9th annual gathering in two months amid increasing global and domestic challenges.

The world economy is sluggish, anti-globalisation sentiments from the West grow stronger, as does populism and protectionism.

On the domestic front, three of the five countries - Brazil, Russia and South Africa are at different stages of a recession. This is further exacerbated by murky politics in these countries.

Meanwhile, Indo-Sino ties, which have a long and chequered history, are strained as China and India pursue their perspective foreign policy agendas.

The gamut of challenges has raised questions in some sectors on whether Brics can speak with a united voice and work to uphold the interests of developing countries.

This weekend China hosted the Brics Political Parties, Think-tanks and Civil Society Organisations Forum in Fuzhou, Fujian Province.

The theme was “Pooling wisdom and efforts towards common development and a brighter future”.

More than 200 political leaders, academics, members of civil society organisations from Brics and other developing countries attended the meeting. The objective of the forum was to cover groundwork and raise pertinent issues ahead of the Brics Summit which will be hosted in Xiamen at the beginning of September.

Almost 16 years ago former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill coined the term Bric in an economic report as a strategy for investors looking for more adventurous growth prospects.

South African only came to the party in the late 2000s.

The group grew out of disillusionment with Western dominance of multilateral institutions, reluctance of Western powers to share global power and other common political objectives.

A decade on the economist admitted in a BBC interview that “the Brics countries collectively are bigger today even in the most optimistic scenario I thought 15 years ago, and it’s primarily because of China”.

The scope of the nations co-operation is wide-ranging.

Initially its focus was on economy, trade and finance, but it has expanded to political security.

A multi-layered cooperation platform has taken shape.

The work of Brics is carried out at the summit by leaders, ministers and officials.

This is followed through by practical co-operation in many areas which has been reinforced by establishing institutions such as the New Development Bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

A concept paper on the forum said Brics has endeavoured to become a pivot for co-operation among developing countries, promote global growth, improve global governance and advance democracy in international relations.

An ambitious task list.

Only, time will tell if these developing nations can meet this tall order.

The paper states the co-operation has delivered tangible benefits to the people of the five nations as well as other developing countries and exerted a larger international influence.

Those who are pro-Brics tally robust trade, loans from the New Development Bank to build much-needed infrastructure and proposals such as the construction of an optical fibre submarine telecommunications cable system, linking all Brics countries as benefits. The Brics share of the world economy shot up from 8.2% in 2002 to 23% in 2016. It

represents two-thirds of the developing world’s economy and comprise just under half the world’s population.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the Brics and other developing countries were responsible for 80% of global growth last year.

The fund showed the Brics economic growth would be higher than that of developed countries and other emerging economies by 2030.

Earlier this year, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi said the country would explore expansion for Brics Plus by holding talks with other major developing countries. Potential new member countries reportedly include Mexico, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Before plans are made to grow, Brics needs to strengthen and commit to its game plan, tackle economic pressures and drive economic growth within the bloc, instead of biting off more than it can chew.

* Melanie Peters is the Live Editor of Weekend Argus.

She is on a 10-month scholarship with the China Africa Press Centre.

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