Defend Truth


BRICS is rapidly becoming a powerful instrument for Africa and SA’s development


Stevens Mokgalapa is Build One South Africa’s (Bosa) Head of International Relations and former mayor of Tshwane.

Global economic power is shifting and will further shift from the traditional ‘West’ towards the multifaceted BRICS bloc. Why are South Africans having frighteningly little conversation around this geopolitical transition — and the opportunity it presents our country for growth?

The upcoming BRICS Summit to be hosted by South Africa in August 2023 has raised the ire of many, and places the BRICS bloc back in the spotlight and under scrutiny. This time, the controversy involves the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) arrest warrant issued against long-serving Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

By incorporating the Rome Statute into domestic law 21 years ago through the Rome Statute Implementation Act, South Africa is obliged to arrest Mr Putin once he sets foot on South African soil in August and hand him over to the ICC. Precedent suggests this is unlikely to happen.

In July 2017, the ICC found that South Africa had failed in its duty to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir when he was in the country two years prior, stating SA had a duty to arrest Omar and surrender him to the courts.

There are at least two indicators that the ANC government will again breach both domestic and international law when Putin arrives for August’s BRICS summit.

One, through historical ties to modern-day Russia’s predecessor, the USSR, an important ally of the ANC and the Struggle against apartheid. Though symbolic and ideological, it remains important for both camps.

The second, arguably more significant, is about each country’s economic future. Since its creation in 2009, BRICS has grown in strength and influence globally. While starting off with a cumulative GDP of $16.09-trillion, it has reportedly overtaken the G7 with a global share of 31.5% of global GDP (compared with the G7’s 30.07%).

It boasts the largest foreign currency reserves of $4.4-trillion, making up 17% of all global trade. On this trajectory, it is estimated that BRICS will account for 50% of global GDP by 2030.

Economic growth is mirrored by population growth. BRICS now accounts for 40% of global population, with over 3 billion people. With this, it is prudent for South Africa to consider in real terms the geopolitical influence that can be harnessed based on our strategic positioning gained from BRICS.

Here’s a tangible example: BRICS established the New Development Bank (NDB) in 2015 to counter the Bretton Woods financial institutions’ (World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc) dominance and to provide alternative financing to promote trade and investment. It also serves to provide financial impetus for integrating BRICS economies.

This has opened up large trade markets for South Africa, as the NDB has financed more than 80 investment projects worth $180-billion. In SA alone, projects worth $30-billion have been approved for implementation.

This is a huge boost considering that South Africa is in dire need of infrastructure upgrade projects to solve the problems of decaying infrastructure, growing population and economic demand.

We have to remain vigilant that this money is put to productive use and does not constitute a new form of corrupt, captured pillaging of funds.

Currency coalition?

BRICS nations are now reported to be working on a plan to develop a new currency that will replace the dollar in international transactions. Already China, Russia and Brazil have an agreement to use the Chinese yuan for trade among themselves.

These agreements between BRICS countries represent a significant threat to the dollar because of the size of their combined populations and the economic scale they represent. Both the South African Treasury and Reserve Bank need to develop appropriate strategies for the looming impact on global trade.

To add, BRICS has lofty ambitions to expand, with Argentina, Iran, Indonesia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia being considered for membership. Already Egypt, Bangladesh and the UAE are contributing capital to the NDB, making it an even more significant player in global trade and the world economy.

This new BRICS currency will be backed by gold, which is of huge benefit for South Africa because of its superior gold reserves. This necessitates a complete rethink of how South Africa trades gold to preserve long-term capacity and increase the likelihood that South Africa remains a central, indispensable player in this group.

Global economic power is shifting and will further shift from the traditional “West” towards the multifaceted BRICS bloc. Given this, why are South Africans having frighteningly little conversation around this geopolitical transition — and the opportunity it presents our country for growth?

Pursued properly, BRICS participation can position South Africa and other African countries as being among the world’s fastest-growing economies, simultaneously addressing pressing domestic issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The NDB is the most viable solution for the lack of private sector investment on the African continent, making it a perfect option to raise resources and funding for the continent’s immediate needs. The funding for the NDB comes at an important time, just as the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is taking off.

South Africa should spearhead a strategy for AfCFTA to partner and work with the NDB to unlock financing and infrastructure development funding and ensure that there is mutually beneficial trade between Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Striking a balance

Does the new, rapidly growing influence of BRICS and NDB mean South Africa and Africa should abandon the traditional historical partners within Europe and the G7? Certainly not.

The answer is to strike a balancing act to benefit from both sets of relations. In truth, AfCFTA needs both the BRICS and G7 in order to succeed. Africa needs foreign direct investment (FDI) urgently to survive and both BRICS and the G7 are critical counterbalances for Africa’s ambitious development goals.

This geopolitical balance is critical, in particular to keep the powerful China honest by dissuading it from becoming a new imperialist actor on the continent by leveraging its economic global power base. China should be a development partner to Africa that treats its partners with equal respect and mutual benefit.

This confluence of geopolitical dynamics requires young, dynamic political leaders to comprehend the technological, financial and socioeconomic opportunities and risks. It is with these international challenges in mind that Build One South Africa puts its hand up as a new custodian for the aspirations of South Africa. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trevor Forbes says:

    Unfortunately, this is another example of a politician ignoring the blatant facts and being mesmerized by the fabrication that is called ‘BRICS’. The numbers being quoted here are totally skewed by the size of China which dwarves all the other so called BRICs. I urge readers and Mr. Mokgalapa to study South Africa’s trade data. If he does, he will see that although South Africa exports as much to China as it does to the USA, it imports far more from China. As a result, trade with China is clearly unfair to South Africa as China is the principal beneficiary whereas the $6.5 billion (2021 numbers) trade surplus South Africa has with the USA is a benefit to the South African economy, Extend this out to the trade being done with America and its allies and the surplus in favour of South Africa is a whopping $21.6 billion. BRICs is a fabrication that has no basis in economic reality for South Africa. Putin, if he arrives in South Africa should be arrested and be tried for his crimes against not only Ukraine but also his own people and the chaos he has produced for many developing countries.

    • Willem van der Westhuizen says:

      The key argument that the writer tries to make is that the BRICS countries will drive Foreign Direct Investment. We need the technology, not the loans. I am not sure that in that sphere the strategy to prefer BRICS to Europe / USA is valid. I get the impression that politically there is a view that should the country need support from a Debt Crisis BRICS would be better than the IMF and the problems with their appraoches. I think Pakistan is a pointer that this a fallacy.

  • William Stucke says:

    “in particular to keep the powerful China honest”

    That’s been pretty unsuccessful so far. Witness: Sri Lanka, Mozambique and elsewhere. While you call for “balance” between the G7 and BRICS, South Africa’s actions are certainly not fostering that. Witness Japan’s decision not to invite Squirrel to the G7 summit next month.

  • Thabang M says:

    I don’t agree with this analysis. It’s lacks depth as the reasons are based on ideology and hope rather than reality and economics. You state all the reasons, some factual but with no visible economic benefits for RSA. The most important facts you don’t mention is that except China, none of BRICS are our top 10 trading partners. This thinking of alignment on ideological but meaningless grounds such “geopolitical balance” is one of the reasons we are not progressing as a country. And if these countries are so good for us why are South African (I mean blacks including politicians) not queuing to go on holidays, settle, study or grow their careers in Moscow, Peking, Sao Paulo or Delhi?

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Even with no economics background … a fool like me can see all the ‘poppycock’ being spouted by another cheap politician … trying to promote himself ! All these self-serving politicians need to consign themselves to dustbins (which their inflated egos prevent them from doing) with their fantastical imaginations … and even greater greed. I won’t waste time in responding to or providing examples of some of the illogicalities in this diatribe !

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    This topic is an irrelevant sideshow.

    It can be equated to someone in the advanced stages of terminal illness investing time in selecting what colour running shoe to wear should they be selected for the Olympics.

    The truth is that until we get a real government and real law enforcement and real skills put in the positions they need to be , South Africa will remain the bitch of every country in the world that would like to make us so – and on the trajectory we’re on currently it’s only going to get worse.

    We need to take our internal medicine, as unpleasant for the useless and corrupt in this country as it may be, and get out of intensive care before attempting to run around and hold our own in the playground with the other much stronger bullying children.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Yours truly Katlego Mahlase’s response should indicate how much we need barmy and blinkered people like him & the author of the diatribe to ‘steer’ our country …. notwithstanding his acknowledgement in the last paragraph, of the utopia he longs for. He has simply ignored the key question/s posed by Thabang M !

  • Katlego Mahlase says:

    Finally a piece on foreign policy in this rag that is forward thinking. It is not surprising that our economic elites and their media sentinels are determined to remain tethered to the west given they owe their material well-being and continued place in society to western capital and supply chains.

    However, it is clear that the East is becoming, if not already, the world’s source of growth and development going forward. It only makes sense for SA to forge closer ties with those jurisdictions and I’m pleased the governing party seems to realizes this.

    The collective west’s reaction to the Ukraine conflagration may yet turn out to be a blessing to SA provided our political and economic elites stop the low intensity civil war and establish some trust so as to seize the opportunity presented by the realignment in global affairs.

  • Ian Callender-Easby says:

    Ha ha ha!🙈

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