Opinion Piece: BRICS Summit a moment for global reflection
By: Professor Kaitano Dube – 22 August 2023
As the red carpet unfurls and the world’s attention turns to South Africa, the host country, the stage is set for a significant gathering – the BRICS Summit. Amid delicate geopolitics and heightened global tensions, the past months have been a test of South Africa’s diplomatic finesse, particularly in the context of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to virtually attend the summit. The backdrop of the ongoing Ukraine conflict and the struggle for global dominance among major powers has added complexity to the situation.
Critics may downplay the impact of BRICS on the global order, yet there’s an undercurrent of concern that the alliance is gradually reshaping the existing balance of power, challenging the traditional Western dominance led by the USA and its allies. While some skepticism remains about BRICS’ achievements since its inception, the prospect of a unified BRICS currency looms as a potential game-changer. Such a move could disrupt the prominence of the Euro and the US dollar, thereby unsettling the established global economic hierarchy.
Under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism,” the summit gathers with a broader purpose in mind. UN Secretary-General António Guterres will be a notable presence, highlighting the summit’s global significance. The agenda encompasses a range of pressing issues: from navigating the far-reaching repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic to addressing the complexities of the Ukraine conflict and tackling the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change.
This summit signifies a momentous convergence of shared economic experiences and mutual objectives. As member countries march toward fulfilling their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is a pivotal gathering that bears witness to the aspirations and challenges faced by each nation. Notably, the prospect of expansion is on the horizon, with more than 40 countries expressing interest in joining the BRICS group. Among the prominent candidates are Ethiopia, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, whose inclusion would significantly amplify the bloc’s economic and geopolitical significance.
The allure of the BRICS grouping as a global market powerhouse prompts a widening of its scope. Discussions extend to technology transfer, green energy advancements, and innovative digital payment systems. While climate change and energy transition remain focal points, this summit notably delves into broader infrastructure concerns – with water, transport, energy and social infrastructure taking the spotlight. For instance, South Africa’s struggle with crippling power outages underscores the need to consider comprehensive solutions beyond energy.
China’s experience offers valuable lessons in the realms of green energy and infrastructural development. The success of such initiatives, ushers in environmentally conscious practices and serves as a catalyst for job creation, poverty reduction, and addressing inequality – vital issues for BRICS member countries.
In summary, the BRICS Summit serves as a platform for member countries to discuss pressing global issues, enhance economic cooperation, and address disparities among nations. The group’s potential to challenge established global orders and promote sustainable development will likely be topics of ongoing discussion as the world watches the outcomes of these summits.
The challenge of economic cooperation among member states, notably skewed in favor of economic giants like China and Russia, remains a point of contention. Aiming to rectify these imbalances is crucial, particularly for countries with smaller economies like South Africa, ensuring that trade remains equitable.
The proposed Egoli Declaration speaks to the heart of the matter: fostering tighter cooperation, sharing resources, and continually evaluating and recalibrating commitments. By doing so, BRICS can remain agile and relevant in an ever-evolving global landscape, avoiding the pitfalls seen in other economic blocs. Central to this effort is addressing the disparities among member states, ultimately advancing socio-economic and environmental conditions. The overarching goal is to achieve the collective aspirations of the BRICS grouping, which hinges on the political stability of its member states.
As the BRICS Summit commences, it presents a moment for introspection on the global stage. The outcomes of this gathering will undoubtedly reverberate far beyond the summit room, influencing global dynamics, economic paradigms, and the pursuit of sustainable development.
Prof Dube is an Associate Professor and Y2 NRF Rated Researcher at the Vaal University of Technology.