The Sunday Mail
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) 10th annual summit, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July 2018 under the theme “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, signals BRICS hegemony in Africa.
After decades of US and European Union (EU) domination of global political and economic architecture, the balance of power is shifting and being counterbalanced with the rise of China and other emerging economies such as Russia, India and Brazil, who make up BRICS.
The acronym BRICS was originally coined in 2001 to refer to a group of four countries: Brazil, India, Russia and China.
These four emerging economies started to meet regularly as a group in 2006.
In 2010, South Africa was invited to join BRICS, bringing the total membership to five countries.
The Delhi Declaration, passed at the 4th BRICS summit in March 2012, clearly sums up BRICS objectives as follows: “We envision a future marked by global peace, economic and social progress and enlightened scientific temper.
We stand ready to work with others, developed and developing countries together, on the basis of universally recognised norms of international law and multilateral decision-making, to deal with the challenges and opportunities before the world today.”
According to World Trade Organisation (WTO) statistics, BRICS countries account for 30 percent of global land, 43 percent of global population, 21 percent of world GDP and 45 percent of world’s agricultural production.
As the grip and influence of the US and EU countries is waning in the globalised village, emerging economic blocs like BRICS have gained momentum and are spreading their tentacles in the so-called developing regions.
Africa, given its diversity, strategic geographical position and abundant natural resources — in high demand globally — is flexing its muscles and can no longer be considered as a docile player on the global economic stage.
Africa is now placing conditions on extraction of its natural resources and leveraging on them to advance its own political interests and economic development aspirations as envisioned in African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, and on robust economic integration initiatives such as the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
Africa is rising and making informed and smart choices on who it wants to do business with, and under what conditions.
African countries view BRICS as a development partner rather than as a threat to their independence and national sovereignty.
BRICS offers African countries with an alternative — an equal partnership in economic co-operation and development and less reliance on the US and EU countries.
Western countries are generally viewed by Africans as having double standards and often tend to use development finance, aid and technical assistance to serve their political and economic interests.
Western development aid approach in Africa is now considered as outdated and based on perpetuating the colonial and imperialistic donor — recipient — subservient legacy.
BRICS offers a new way of doing business, a partnership and a win-win deal with Africa.
According to EU 2012 Parliamentary report, “The role of BRICS in the Developing World”, BRICS member states are catalysing changes in the architecture of international development co-operation, not only with regard to trade and financial flows, but also as donors.
Over the last decade, BRICS increased financial and technical assistance and economic co-operation with developing countries through the south-south co-operation.
Although BRICS development aid to Africa is lower in comparison to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries — often referred to as the major donor countries — it is nevertheless increasing.
Lack of structured data often makes the tracking and quantification of BRICS development aid difficult to measure.
The EU Parliamentary report cited above shows that FDI inflows from BRICS increased incredibly from less than $10 billion in 2002 to $146 billion eight years later in 2008.
In 2016, FDI inflows from BRICS to recipient countries were estimated at $481 billion.
BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) — launched in 2014 in Brazil at the BRICS 6th summit — seeks to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other developing countries.
NDB offers development aid alternatives to African countries, which relied mostly on western multilateral lending institutions like IMF and World Bank, which are controlled from western capitals.
Western development aid has often come with strings attached and unfavourable conditions under the guise of promoting democracy, human rights and poverty alleviation.
Over the last decade, BRICS countries, as a bloc and individually, have made significant contributions in strengthening economic co-operation and development ties with African countries.
BRICS strength is in its policies of multilateralism, partnership, non-interference and recognition of national sovereignty of the countries they dialogue and co-operate with.
BRICS has a different approach to development aid and views African countries as “equal development partners”.
BRICS aid projects in Africa are negotiated deals and determined by the needs of the recipient countries as opposed to being imposed.
According to AfreximBank (Africa) and Exim Bank (India) 2018 report: “Developing South-South Collaboration: An Analysis of Africa and India’s Trade and Investment”, trade between Africa and India is on the rise.
Indo-Africa trade between 2001 and 2014 increased tenfold, making the Asian country Africa’s fourth-largest national trading partner.
According to the above report, Indo- Africa bilateral trade over the last 17 years rose as follows: 2001($7,2 billion), 2014 ($78 billion) and 2017 ($55 billion).
Africa accounts for 8 percent of India’s total trade. Indian deputy president Shri Venkaiah Naidu was in Zimbabwe in November 2018 on a three-nation tour of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi aimed at deepening India’s strategic economic co-operation with Africa.
India and Zimbabwe signed six bilateral agreements in areas which include mining, information services, health and ICT.
India also pledged a $310 million line of credit to Zimbabwe for infrastructure rehabilitation projects.
Russia has also entered the fray in Africa.
In March 2018, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov undertook a five-day tour of African countries, namely Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.
This was viewed as marking the return of Russia in Africa as it did not focus much on defence deals, but on mining, agriculture, industrial development, energy and other commercial interests.
China remains Africa’s leading trading and development partner. China’s relations with Africa are multifaceted and have been boosted by the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) and other platforms such as the One Belt-One Road Initiative (OBOR) and institutions such as Export-Import Bank of China (Exim), China Development Bank and China-Africa Development Fund.
China’s policy on Africa has caused uneasiness in the Trump administration.
US President Donald Trump has shown disdain and disrespect for African countries as shown by his previous disparaging remarks on Africa. The US New African Strategy policy announced by Trump’s security adviser John Bolton on December 13 2018 at the Conservative Heritage Foundation clearly shows that US interest in Africa is in securing its security and economic interests and countering Chinese influence on the continent.
On the sidelines of the G20 Summit held in Argentina in December 2018, BRICS Heads of State issued a joint statement criticising protectionism amid threats by the US to intensify tariffs on China and impose more sanctions on Russia.
BRICS members urged open international trade, stressing that “the spirit and rules of WTO run counter to unilateral and protectionist measures”.
BRICS continues to increase its footprint in Africa and is forging strong symbiotic political and economic ties with African countries, thus heralding a new chapter in BRICS-Africa economic partnership and development co-operation.
This article, written by Allen Choruma, appeared in the African Banker Magazine, Quarter 1 (Issue 47), 2019. Allen Choruma can be contacted on e-mail: [email protected]