BRAZIL, Russia, India, China and South Africa (commonly referred to as the BRICS) recently concluded the fifth annual meeting. As the Economist have pointed out, the confusion arises from the fact that South Africa has sneaked into the group, which claims to represent the world’s emerging markets and act as a counterweight to the G8 and G20, which are dominated by rich-world economies.
The BRIC countries were the constituent members of an acronym coined by Jim O’Neill, then of Goldman Sachs, in 2001. Mr O’Neill was looking for a way to convey the fact that much of the world’s economic growth would soon come from Brazil, Russia, India and China. There was much debate about whether this grouping made sense: at the time Brazil’s growth seemed too sluggish to warrant inclusion; now Russia looks like it doesn’t deserve to be placed with the others. China has a much higher economic growth rate than the rest. Even so, the label proved so catchy that the foreign ministers of the BRIC countries.
There was just one problem with the BRICs: no African countries were included. This was a little embarrassing. According to the Economist, overlooking Africa suggested that the continent was an economic irrelevance, good only for providing raw materials to the rest and cast doubt on the group’s position as the representative group of the economically dis-enfranchised world. Nigeria and South Africa were the two candidates.
But only BRICN sounds weird and so, in 2010, the club of BRICs became the BRICS. I certainly hope that that was indeed not the case. After all, BRINC sounds good to me. But South Africa remains the largest economy in the continent and a part of the G-20, it is only logical that South Africa was “awarded” membership into to group. Another explanation is that South Africa is increasingly seen as a gateway into Africa. South Africa, as a nation, is the single bigest investor in the continent and has been extending its wings throughout the continent. As such the other members view the largest economy in the continent as a way to extend their presence and voice in the continent.
The potential for BRICS as an organ to counterbalance the hegemonic power is yet to fully materialize and only time will tell what will come of it.