The visit of Kamala Harris, the Vice President of the United States, to Ghana, raised discussions on Africa’s existing relationship with the United States and the West in general. In these discussions, the term BRICS has become an important term that keeps coming up.
This is understandable, especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war which has affected several economies across the globe. Its impact has, among other things, resulted in the shift in political alliances among nations. The recent visit of Kamala Harris to Africa was believed to ‘deepen ties’ with the continent, amid growing competition from the likes of China and Russia who form part of BRICs as the US attempts to win over the support of African countries. Many economists have suggested that Africa is better off with BRICS than with the United States.
So, what is BRICS how does its decisions impact Africa’s development?
BRICS is an acronym denoting the emerging national economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The term was originally coined in 2001 as “BRIC” by the Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in his report. South Africa which is the only African country in this bloc joined in December 2010. While South Africa’s representation is considered to be for the African continent, experts say its mediocre growth contrasts vividly with the rise of financial markets elsewhere on the continent in places like Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia.
BRICS and Africa, a continent with abundant natural resources and a rapidly growing population, have a unique relationship that has the potential to shape the future of global economics and politics. With Africa being the youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world, and BRICS countries representing 40% of the global population, expert prediction say this relationship has the potential to be transformative.
The BRICS countries have been working to strengthen their ties with Africa in recent years. To the group, Africa represents a critical partner for trade, investment, and development, and has been investing heavily in the continent’s infrastructure, energy, and manufacturing sectors especially in North and East Africa. In 2018, the BRICS countries accounted for more than a third of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Africa.
China, in particular, has been a major investor in Africa, financing projects such as highways, railways, ports, and airports across the continent. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to connect Asia, Africa, and Europe through infrastructure investments, has brought about significant changes in the economic landscape of many African countries. However, concerns have been raised about the debt burden that some African countries are facing due to these investments.
BRICS countries have also been working to increase their trade with Africa. In 2019, trade between BRICS and Africa reached over $560 billion, with China accounting for the lion’s share of the trade. BRICS countries have been seeking to expand their trade with Africa beyond natural resources and towards manufactured goods, services, and technology transfer.
The relationship between BRICS and Africa is not just about economics, but also about geopolitics. The BRICS countries have been pushing for a more multipolar world order, with a greater role for emerging economies in global governance. They have been advocating for reforms in international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund to give more voice to developing countries.
Africa, with its 54 member states, is an important voice in the international community, and BRICS countries have been seeking its support in their efforts to reform the global governance system. African countries have also been advocating for greater representation and voice in global decision-making bodies.
However, the BRICS-Africa relationship is not without challenges. Some African countries have expressed concerns about the dominance of China in their economies and the impact of their debt burden. There are also concerns about the lack of diversity in the economic engagement between BRICS and Africa, with natural resources still accounting for the majority of exports from the continent.
Despite these challenges, the relationship between BRICS and Africa is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater cooperation and solidarity between countries, and BRICS countries and African countries have been working together to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on their economies.
The BRICS-Africa relationship has the potential to be transformative, not only for the economies of the countries involved but also for the global economic and political landscape. It will require continued dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect to realize this potential.