•This article was first published by the CGTN.
The 15th summit of the group of major economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) will take place from August 22 to 24 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This time, things will be a little bit different though. In addition to BRICS leaders, selected leaders and representatives of pan-African organizations invited to the summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has also extended an invitation to all African heads of state and government to the event. At least 34 countries have so far confirmed participation.
For BRICS, the more the merrier. In a recent interview with Voice of America, South Africa's BRICS Ambassador Anil Sooklal noted that in addition to 22 countries that have formally applied for full BRICS membership, more than 40 countries have shown interest in joining the premier Global South group.
Statistics show that the BRICS economies have overtaken the Group of Seven economies. Measured by purchasing power parity, BRICS now accounts for 31.7 percent of global GDP, while the G7 share has dropped to 30 percent. It is projected that BRICS will contribute more than 50 percent of global GDP by 2030.
So, what's in it for Africa, and why is Ramaphosa keen on having all heads of State in Africa attend the annual summit? A lot, the experts believe. By eventually joining BRICS, African economies will benefit by tapping into the dynamics of the group's major economies.
For Africa to develop, it needs to partner closely with BRICS for trade and development. The continent's erstwhile development partners, who are predominantly its Western colonizers, have not helped African countries much in achieving its development goals.
BRICS countries have some of the most sophisticated infrastructural projects, which Africa desperately needs to open up its economy. By May 2022, for example, India surpassed the U.S. with the most infrastructure projects in development or execution valued at over $25 million. This shows the massive potential that the Global South has for development.
Currently, China has the largest number of infrastructural projects in Africa. Between 2000 and 2020, China helped African countries build more than 13,000 kilometers of railways and more than 80 large-scale power plants.
However, there is still a huge infrastructure gap that continues to drag the continent's push toward economic growth. Improved infrastructure will facilitate Africa's domestic and international trade, reduce trading costs and improve competitiveness both as an exporter and as an investment location.
China cannot close Africa's infrastructure gap singlehandedly. There is a need for the active participation of other BRICS members with the capacity to construct massive infrastructural projects. BRICS members India and Russia also have considerable presence in Africa through various forms of engagement including trade, health and education.
The success of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement will be determined by the levels of infrastructural efficiency. Transport infrastructure is essential in connecting African countries, and enabling the movement of goods and people. This includes investments in roads, rail, ports and airports. Moreover, BRICS can help to deliver on Africa's energy needs through renewables such as wind and solar.
Africa's interests have been served by disparate regional groups with dissimilar objectives. Some countries belong to a couple of these regional trade and political blocs, which often cause misunderstanding when pursuing development goals and resolving conflicts. BRICS offers the continent an opportunity to align its development goals and aspirations with a bigger cause.
There is a need for a symbiotic relationship between developing countries, most of which are in Africa. With BRICS at the core, Africa will definitely move at a sustainable pace through experience sharing and benchmarking among themselves. This is enough proof that BRICS is the future of global economic development.
A strong BRICS – which will have to change the acronym as the membership expands – will tilt the global balance of power in favor of developing countries. This will give them a bigger and stronger voice in the management of global affairs and international relations.
Stephen Ndegwa is the executive director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank.