With only a few days left, there has been great anticipation as to the outcome of the 15th BRICS Summit. This historic Summit is scheduled to take place in South Africa August 22- 24, 2023. Almost prematurely, close observers sense major policy changes before the deliberations have begun. Indeed, the Summit will mark the first time the BRICS will meet face to face in person since the desultory impact of COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent global restrictions.
Invitations to attend the summit have been extended to sixty-seven leaders from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Also, twenty dignitaries including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and the President of the New Development Bank have been invited. Business leaders are also expected to be in attendance.
BRICS-Does it matter?
The term “BRIC,” which is an alliance of the world’s major economies namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China, was first coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001. He posited that by 2050, the four BRIC economies would come to dominate the global economy. South Africa was added to the list in 2010 which changed the acronym to BRICS.
Currently, the BRICS group accounts for 42% of the world population and has evolved into one of the world’s most crucial economic blocs. In fact, it accounts collectively for more than 26% of the global economy. Even more, BRICS offers an alternative forum for countries outside diplomatic channels seen as dominated by traditional Western powers. Its influence and economic heft have more nations eager to join.
So far twenty-three countries have shown serious interest and have formally applied to become new BRICS members. They include Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
What to expect at the 15th BRICS Summit?
The Summit is likely to attract global attention as there are high expectations among observers and participants alike about the outcomes of the meeting. Major outcomes will fall in these areas: (1) significant discussions on global
geopolitics; (2) concerted efforts to increase South-South trade and infrastructure development; (3) a serious strategy to combat global climate change and sustainable development. One of the most important and controversial topics up for discussion will be BRICS expansion particularly the admission criteria and guiding principles.
Given the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia will embrace this opportunity to prevent its isolation due to severe Western sanctions. At a time of tension with the United States, China will seek to increase its political clout. India seems to be in agreement with extending the olive branch to new members and maintaining a neutral stance on the geopolitical hot issues in the Black Sea and Taiwan. However, Brazil has recently displayed hesitation with the fast inclusion of new members.
Also, BRICS’s controversial proposition of a new, gold-backed currency will be tabled for discussion. Although many have questioned the motivations behind this, the policy reflects the BRICS’s desire to reduce reliance on the U.S. dollar.
BRICS and The Caribbean
Except for Cuba, presently, no public announcement has been made of which Caribbean leaders will be in attendance. The question is: will leaders in the Caribbean consider becoming members of this ascendant global bloc?
Another important question is: what mutually beneficial development interests can be garnered with additional Caribbean states joining BRICS?
With China at the forefront as the most important member of BRICS, joining that body is attractive.
During the past two decades, China has been a major investor in infrastructure, and the funder of Chinese private sector-led ventures across the region. These BRICS countries are not just trading partners but indispensable allies for fostering trade, attracting investment, and fostering deep economic cooperation. Collaborating with BRICS could be viewed as a new catalyst for propelling economic growth and diversification across the region, primarily due to the region’s resources.
Developing Caribbean states share similar challenges and opportunities, such as abject poverty, inequality, and poor public infrastructure. Hence, cooperating with BRICS offers a new path toward modernization and socio-economic development. Also, with the New Development Bank established by BRICS countries, this is an alternative source of financing new 21st-century economic projects that tend to cause traditional leaders to shy away and avoid.
For the Caribbean, governments will have to consider how and where to insert themselves, not just the expanding and overlapping relationships but they must also decide how to balance this new dynamic with established relationships, with Western powers. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), has immense potential to join BRICS en masse as well as deepen trade and political cooperation with China. As the Summit unfolds, it holds immense significance for the BRICS member nations and the global community.
PhD Candidate in International Politics
University of International Business and Economics(UIBE)