BRICS, and the Summit:
BRICS, a supranational organization consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa respectively, is a cooperative alliance of five major emerging economies. It is commonly understood to have a number of aims, predominantly consisting of increasing member-states’ influence in global affairs vis-a-vis economic and diplomatic coordination, as well as providing an alternative voice to what are considered by some to be traditionally Western-dominated international institutions.
This year’s BRICS summit will fall between 22/08-24/08 in Cape Town, and observers have high expectations for the outcome of the 15th annual summit. According to Anil Sooklal, an ambassador for BRICS, “Thirteen countries have formally asked to join and another six have asked informally” as of April. Between then and now, another three have requested to join, as indicated in a lecture performed by Sooklal at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Notably, Argentina, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia are all among the countries that have requested to join, and incredibly influential in their own rights.
While the group’s expansion is expected to be the primary concern of the summit, Philani Mthembu, executive director of the Institute for Global Dialogue, expects “to see a consolidation of cooperation mechanisms and also the charting of a vision for the next cycle of BRICS summits”. BRICS has often been criticized as an institution that does not act particularly cohesively–which is certainly a problem that must be addressed before increasing membership, however, it may be the case that the rectification of these issues begins given the ‘theme’ of the summit, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism.”
Perhaps most notably, BRICS has been characterized by a policy of non-interference, underpinned in a strong belief of state sovereignty. For some states, this is a huge boon. For example, Ethiopian interest in BRICS can likely be distinguished by a need for political legitimation following, and enduring, its civil conflicts. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has reaped the benefits of political cover from China–and should Ethiopia’s membership be expected, it will likely experience the same.
Ethiopia has a long history with Western powers in terms of aid and cooperation regarding security. However, it has long come under great scrutiny from the West as a result of ongoing humanitarian crises and human rights violations. The greater geostrategic importance granted by joining BRICS may level Western tempers in favor of the interests of realpolitiks. Much of the same can be said for Saudi Arabia’s cold-war in Yemen, or UAE and the use of the Kafala system.
Ultimately, there is a lot to follow in this year’s summit, and it is expected to be massively impactful to the future trends of geopolitics–arguably considerably moreso than previous BRICS summits.