BRICS expansion, welcoming Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, starting January 1, 2024, signals a historic moment in global politics, empowering the global South.
The BRICS Alliance
Initially comprising Brazil, Russia, India, and China, BRICS was formed in 2009. South Africa later joined in 2010. Now, as a formidable alliance since its inception, BRICS takes another significant step by inviting six nations. This reaffirms its dedication to empowering the global South in the face of seismic shifts in the world order.
A Crescendo of Interest
Before the curtain rose on its annual summit in South Africa, over 40 countries expressed keen interest in joining BRICS, with 23 nations submitting formal applications. This outpouring of interest is a testament to the bloc’s growing influence and the recognition of its potential to challenge the status quo.
In the Johannesburg II declaration, adopted on the summit’s final day, BRICS affirmed its appreciation for the global South’s interest in joining its ranks. However, the selection process remained somewhat enigmatic, with specific criteria shrouded in mystery. The common thread among the chosen six appeared to be their stature as significant regional powers.
A Geostrategic Game-Changer
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, and Egypt introduces a pronounced Middle Eastern influence into BRICS. As Sanusha Naidu, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue, notes, this move holds geo-economic, geostrategic, and geopolitical implications of great magnitude. China’s recent role in brokering the Saudi Arabia-Iran reconciliation underscores the shifting sands of global diplomacy. It’s a role traditionally reserved for Western powers, signifying a significant pivot in the global political landscape.
India actively diversifies, trading with the UAE in local currencies, reducing reliance on the US dollar. The expansion, Naidu notes, focuses on energy, addressing oil price vulnerabilities.
Dollar Dominance Challenged
One of the most significant outcomes of this expansion is the potential for reduced reliance on the US dollar in global trade. By fostering local currency trade among member nations, BRICS is creating a network of countries that can strengthen the utility of their respective currencies. Iran, in particular, stands to benefit, given its struggles under unilateral sanctions. The inclusion of Argentina, strongly championed by Brazil, China, and India, indicates the broader economic implications of this expansion.
Nigeria’s notable absence from the list raises questions about the country’s foreign policy direction. Cheta Nwanze of SBM Intelligence suggests that most African nations, except perhaps Nigeria and Kenya, are shifting their allegiances from the West to the East. Nigeria’s exclusion reflects a missed opportunity to strengthen its global positioning.
Ethiopia’s inclusion aligns with its rapid economic growth and its status as the host of the African Union headquarters. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, much like India and South Africa, straddle both BRICS and Western alliances. Consequently, they occupy a unique position in the global geopolitical landscape.
Strategic Messaging to the West
The expansion of BRICS sends a powerful message to the West. As Na’eem Jeenah, a senior researcher at the Mapungupwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, puts it, “Your problems are not our problems.” The inclusion of Iran, facing isolation and sanctions, underscores this message. It signals BRICS’s willingness to challenge the West’s dominance and carve out its path.
A Window into the Future
While analysts differ on the immediate impact, they unanimously agree that BRICS expansion signals a major global shift. This transformation is set to reshape geopolitical dynamics. Professor Bradlow sees potential for global governance reform, hinging on agreements benefiting the entire global South.
Margaret Myers of the Inter-American Dialogue views this expansion as a symbolic show of support for a recalibration of the global order. Its significance cannot be underestimated, as it amplifies the BRICS configuration’s share of the global economy and population.
As the world watches, eleven diverse nations set to shape the future. Seeds of transformative global influence have been sown, though it’s not yet a global South front. The question remains: where will this journey lead in the next 30 years? One thing is clear: the BRICS bloc has set in motion a geopolitical transformation that will be felt far and wide, and the world can ill afford to ignore its implications.
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