More than 40 countries participate in the biggest summit in fifteen years of existence of the BRICS. During the pandemic, meetings between the leaders of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa were held online.
During this period, the interest of several countries in the Global South in relation to the group grew. Twenty-three countries have already submitted a formal request to join the group, and another twenty have expressed interest. Among those who made the formal request are from Argentina, Bolivia and Cuba to Iran, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.
Along with the theme of the group’s expansion, another important theme of this 15th summit, which began on Tuesday (22nd), in Johannesburg, South Africa, is the expectation surrounding the possibility of creating a common payment system so that members use in business transactions and investments with each other.
On the first day, president Lula had a meeting with representatives of the African National Congress, the party founded by former leader Nelson Mandela, and which has governed the country since 1994. In the afternoon, the president spoke at the Brics Business Forum with the president South African Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Trade Minister Wang Wentao. There, Lula highlighted the economic evolution of the BRICS.
“Since the first Summit of Heads of State and Government, our participation in the global economy has been expanding. We have already surpassed the G7, and we account for 32% of world GDP in purchasing power parity. Projections indicate that emerging markets and in development are those that will show the highest growth rate in the coming years,” said the Brazilian president.
The general theme of the summit is the relationship between the BRICS and African countries. In a context in which several West African countries are leading uprisings questioning their countries’ relationship with the powers of the Global North, the debate on multipolarity crosses the 15th BRICS summit. Thirty heads of state from African countries are taking part in the meeting.
“It’s important that the Global South is taking advantage of what I call an interpolar world, which is a world that is both multipolar and interdependent,” said South African researcher Yvonne Phyllis. “Many countries in the Global South, particularly in Africa, have a history of colonization and are currently fighting imperialism, so for countries in the Global South to create different types of new forums and bring their own voices to the fore is very important” , said Phyllis, who is the founder of the pan-Africanist organization The Forge.
Yvonne Phyllis, researcher and founder of The Forge, based in Johannesburg, South Africa / Mauro Ramos
Economist and former vice-president of the New Development Bank (NDB), Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr, BRICS as a group has every interest in expanding its relationship with Africa.
“Africa is moving from a difficult period to a period of expansion in recent years, but it suffers from the historical problems accumulated by colonialism, by the oppression that often appears in the relationship between African countries and their former European colonizers, which is sometimes very bad, as in the case of Niger,” said Nogueira.
The debate on de-dollarization is also at the center of the 15th BRICS Summit, with a focus on the creation of its own payment system among the group’s countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in his speech during the BRICS Business Forum that “the process towards the irreversible goal of de-dollarizing our economic ties is gaining more and more momentum”.
President Lula, who during his visit to China in April this year raised the issue for debate, stated in his first speech at the summit that the idea of adopting a reference unit for trade would not be a substitute for national currencies.
The former vice-president of the NDB said that the process of creating a common currency must be complex and time-consuming, but that if the summit ends with an indication of the need to study the feasibility, it will already be a positive sign. Mainly due to the fact that the two countries that have most insisted on the need for de-dollarization are Russia and Brazil, which will have the next BRICS presidencies.
“If this signal is given, a process will begin that will take some time, but which may perhaps be completed at the summit that will be held in Brazil in 2025, under the presidency of the Lula government”, foresees Nogueira.
“Something That Never Was”
One of the demands with which the BRICS group was born 15 years ago was the demand for a reform of global governance, especially due to the lack of representation of countries from the Global South in platforms such as the United Nations and international financial institutions.
A common point in the positions of the BRICS countries is that the group does not have the objective of opposing the countries or blocs of the Global North, but rather the search for giving more relevance to the “developing” countries.
In his second speech at the summit, during the open plenary session, Chinese President Xi Jinping said it was “unacceptable” for countries that “have the strongest muscles or the loudest voice” to impose their rules as international standards. Xi Jinping also stated that the Cold War mentality haunts the world and that it is “imperative to increase the representation and voice of developing countries.
President Lula, in his Conversation with the President program, recorded in Johannesburg, stated that the organization does not want to be a counterpoint to the G7, the G20 or the United States: “We want to organize ourselves. We want to create something that never had, that never existed.”
“I think it’s time we realized the importance that Africa has brought to the table. And maybe think about how the table is set, because while Africa has brought to the world everything I mentioned, we are talking about African states and the Global South that united to defend the reform of the world order, to defend a non-alignment position and they are doing this in an international system that is still unequal”, concluded the South African researcher Yvonne Phyllis.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho