Leaders of the BRICS group of developing countries have invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates to join, in an effort to strengthen a bloc that has sworn to defend the “Global South.”
Expansion might also pave the way for dozens of interested countries to seek admission to the BRICS – now Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – at a time when geopolitical polarisation is pushing efforts by Beijing and Moscow to develop it into a viable counterweight to the West.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is hosting a BRICS conference, named the new candidate members.
“BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous,” he said.
On January 1, 2024, the new candidates will be formally accepted as members. Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva both left the door open for further new members to be admitted in the future.
“We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow,” Ramaphosa stated at a press conference.
Lula stated that the promises of globalization had failed and that it was time to renew collaboration with poor nations since “there is a risk of nuclear war,” an apparent reference to rising tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.
President Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, whose country is already a member of the bloc’s New Development Bank (NDB), expressed gratitude for his country’s inclusion as a new member.
“We look forward to a continued commitment of cooperation for the prosperity, dignity, and benefit of all nations and people around the world,” he said on the messaging platform X, which was formerly known as Twitter.
COMMITMENT TO REBALANCE WORLD ORDER
The discussion over enlargement has dominated the agenda of the three-day summit in Johannesburg. While all BRICS members publicly indicated support for the bloc’s expansion, there were disagreements among the presidents on how much and how quickly.
Despite accounting for around 40% of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP, BRICS members’ inability to agree on a unified vision for the bloc has long left it punching below its weight as a global political and economic player.
“This membership expansion is historic,” China’s President Xi Jinping stated after the enlargement announcement. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries.”
According to South African officials, more than 40 countries have indicated interest in joining BRICS, and 22 have formally requested admission.
They constitute a diverse group of potential candidates, united mostly by a desire to level a global playing field that many believe is stacked against them.
They are drawn to BRICS because they promise to rebalance world entities led by the United governments and other wealthy Western governments.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the bloc’s enlargement should serve as a model for other 20th-century global institutions that have grown obsolete.
“The expansion and modernization of BRICS is a message that all institutions in the world need to mold themselves according to changing times,” he said.