文I 梅拉库·穆鲁阿勒姆 埃塞俄比亚外交关系战略研究所培训部主任
Benefits and Opportunities of BRICS to Africa
by Melaku Mulualem, Foreign Policy Analysis Department Head in the Ethiopian Foreign Relation Strategic Studies Institute
BRICS which is an acronym that stands forBrazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was established by emergingeconomies of the globe.It has a transcontinental dimension by comprisingmembers from Asia,Europe,Latin America and Africa. The five member countriesrepresent 43% of the world’s population, 23% of global GDP,30% of globalland,17% of global merchandise trade and 45% of world’s agriculturalproduction.
From 3-5 September 2017, the Ninth BRICSSummit was held in Xiamen,China under the theme “BRICS: Stronger Partnershipfor Brighter Future”. In this Summit the leaders of the five countries hadparticipatedand adopted the Xiamen Declaration.In the declaration it is statedthat BRICS is working “for a more just,equitable,fair,democratic andrepresentative international political and economic order”. Regarding Africa,the Declaration has included its concerns on “illegal wild life trade, promoteemployment, food security, infrastructure development and industrialization”.The member states of BRICS have also shown their support to the implementationof Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
These new global political actors arebecoming an influential group in the twenty-first century by challenging thepresent world order and pushing hard for the creation and development of newworld order. As of 2010 China has become second economy globally, replacingJapan. Just after a year(2011) Brazil became the six largest global economy,replacing Britain. India’s growth is also considerable in replacing otherdeveloped countries.
In the coming decades it is predicted thatBRICS will have strong economy next to only the United States of America. Thisglobal shift will have significant impact on Africa and other developingcountries at large. BRICS has become the first trading partner to Africa.Studies show that “Africa’s resilience to the previous financial crisis waslargely due to its economic relationship with BRICS partners”.BRICS countrieshold the largest foreign reserve money in the world.Because of the newdevelopment paradigms, the future fate of Africa’s economic growth is linkedwith BRICS.
Soon after the end of the Cold War, theWestern economies have become the dominant power in the world that detectsother countries according to their interests and wishes.The InternationalMonitory Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization have become theengine of Western dominance and the world order. Emerging powers and otherleast developed countries were isolated from the benefits of globalization.Rather structural adjustment, the Washington consensus worsens the situation ofdeveloping and least developed countries of the world. It was in this situationthat BRICS came into existence as a safe haven to the unglobalized and poorcountries of the world.
Even if BRICS member states haveestablished the new group to fulfil their national interests, they have alsogreat concerns about the global injustice in the western dominated world orderand seek to maintain multi-polar order by promoting peace,security anddevelopment. BRICS is advocating cooperation with non-BRICS countries, emergingmarket and developing countries through BRICS Plus cooperation.For BRICS suchcooperation and support will help in “redressing North-South development imbalanceand promoting global growth”.
In showing their solidarity to developingcountries BRICS underlined that “ developed countries should fulfill theircommitment of 0.7 of Gross National Income for the Official DevelopmentAssistance and make further efforts in increasing assistance, debt relief,market access and technology transfer for developing countries”.
The Fifth Summit of BRICS, in March 2013 inDurban, South Africa, is the base for the partnership between BRICS and Africa.This Summit was held under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership forDevelopment, Integration and Industrialization”. In this Summit leaders haveunderlined for the support of Africa’s integration process, sustainable growth,industrialization,poverty eradication,stimulating foreign directinvestment,human resource development as well asinfrastructure development. Inthe proposed IMF reform BRICS Summit had also gave emphasis by saying “IMFshould strengthen the voice and representation of the poorest members of theIMF,including Sub-Saharan Africa”.
BRICS and African countries have a lot ofcommon challenges-such as unfair world order, global terrorism, human and drugtrafficking, extremism, piracy, corruption, environmental degradation,organized crimes,brain drain, sustainable development needs,women’s empowermentand gender equalityproblem and the like. Like that of African countries allBRICS member countries have a large proportion of unemployed people and poorpopulation that need better life. These common challenges need commonefforts.On the other hand African countries have unique challenges such asEbola Virus, peaceful transition of power, economic backwardness and debt burden.
Both of them have also similar agenda suchas the reform of the Security Council of the United Nations and effectiverepresentation of developing countries, South-South Cooperation(although someargue that Russia is in the North, thus South-South phrase doesn’twork),inequality and benefiting from globalization for economic development. Inorder to counter and solve their common problems, challenges and limitations,partnership between the two sides is a paramount importance.
In supporting peace and security of Africa,BRICS have shown their concern towards many countries of Africa in whichconflict was rampant. The conflicts in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo,Libya, Central African Republic, South Sudanetc have been discussed in theBRICS platforms. The platform has also commended the objective of AfricanStandby Force, the working relationship between the African force and theUnited Nations Peace Keeping force in maintaining peace and security in Africa.
The GOA Declaration of BRICS number 17 havealso given emphasis for Africa Union’s objectives saying
We[BRICS] welcome the African Union’s (AU) vision, aspirations, goals andpriorities for Africa’s development enshrined in Agenda 2063, which iscomplementary with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We[BRICS] reaffirm our support for Africa’simplementation of its various programmes in pursuit of its continental agendafor peace and socio economic development. We will continue to engage in jointendeavours to advance Africa's solidarity, unity and strength through supportmeasures for regional integration and sustainable development.
From the above mentioned points it is clearthat BRICS has made a lot of promises to Africa and shown its solidarity tofulfil peace, security and development interests of Africa.Africa needs thepartnership with BRICS and the fulfilment of those mentioned promises.Over thelast decade, BRICS countries have increased financial and technical assistancesto African countries. However, in order to fulfil all the promises of BRICS toAfrica, there must be well organized mechanisms that facilitate workingrelationships between the two sides. For BRICS it is hard to have agreementswith more than fiftydifferent African countries independently. Rather it iscommended to work with the African Union as an organization that incorporatethe vision of the continent at large. The continental organization has its ownagenda-Agenda 2063.BRICS has also shown its wishes for the fulfilment of theAgenda repeatedly. One of the mechanismsis establishment of partnership anddevelopment of roadmap that show concrete targets and priority areas ofcooperation.
Unlike the European Union and other groups,so far there is no partnership agreement between BRICS and the AfricanUnion.Such agreement can help both sides to work together on measurableactivities. The partnership should be based on non-interference, shared value,equality, trust, mutual respect, reciprocal obligation and responsibilities,solidarity, win-win relation than donor-recipient relation.Partnershipagreement can reinforce political and economic relations between thetwo sides. It also helps to fulfil mutual interests, address common challenges,strengthen people-to-people relations, enhance and strengthen political dialogue,have common voice in multilateral forums such as in the United Nations andother forums.
BRICS and Africa should understand andrecognize their common positions, gaps, potentials, resources,prioritieschallenges and limitations. This is a base for their partnership. Forthis purpose BRICS and Africa should establish periodic forum for consultationand dialogue at different levels-leaders, ministers and experts level. Themechanisms can be BRICS-Africa Summit, Non-State Actors Forums such as forum forbusiness community, forum for Civil Society Organizations, forum for PrivateSectors and forum for Think Tanks.
The partnership can focus on peace andsecurity, human resource development, trade, investment, industrialization,construction of infrastructure (road, railways, telecommunication, portdevelopment etc), science and technology, humanitarian assistance, goodgovernance, joint research and exchange programme, development assistance,political and cultural cooperation.
BRICS was not established based on oneideology such as capitalism or communism. This is a good guarantee for Africanot to be imposed by one specific ideology as in the case of Cold Warperiod.Moreover the “development cooperation of BRICS is not following OECDguidelines or western-standardized aid criteria”. Thus BRICS can be alternativedevelopment partner and source of finance to Africa. Unlike IMF and Westerncountries that have strings attached to their cooperation with Africancountries, BRICS follow no political conditionality attached to assistancesthat can balance global injustice and narrow the gap between North and Southdichotomy.
There are different African countries thatwanted to join BRICS and to be part of the group. The BRICS Plus mechanism isalso helpful to strengthen the platform. BRICS should establish a kind ofbarometer that shows which developing countries can also be part of it in thefuture. Since South Africa is already part of BRICS from the continent, theadditional members can be selected from East, West and North Africa based ontheir strong economy, democratic governance, influence in their region,resource potential and other factors. Such approach of BRICS can alsostrengthen the relationship with African countries.
In conclusion, both BRICS countries andAfrica can benefit from the establishment of partnership under the umbrella ofthe African Union. Some of the advantages to Africa from its partnership withBRICS are acquiring development assistance, technology transfer, job creation,technical assistance, FDI flow, human resource development, diversification oftrading items, industrialization, food security and alleviation of poverty. Onthe other hand BRICS countries can get benefit from the partnership with Africasuch as increasing their soft power globally, acquiring more trading partner,can use of their reserve money to projects that can produces more benefitsthrough interests, job creation to themselves, get support from Africancountries in multilateral forums and increase friendship with Africa.