South Africa and the BRICS: progress, problems, and prospects

South Africa and the BRICS: progress, problems, and prospects

The BRICS countries played a pivotal role in enabling other developing and emerging economies to weather the impact of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009. Participation in the BRICS grouping offers an opportunity for South Africa to deepen and broaden its bilateral engagement with Brazil, Russia, India, and China. In turn, South Africa’s accession has helped broaden the bloc’s focus from mainly economic cooperation to development cooperation.

This conference report stems from the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR)'s two-day policy advisory group seminar in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa, from 30 to 31 August 2014.

With an estimated annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $370 billion, South Africa is the second largest economy in Africa (after Nigeria) and the continent’s most industrialised country. Tshwane has sought to advance a broader African peacebuilding and development agenda within the BRICS. However, the extent to which the BRICS countries’ interests in Africa converge with the continent’s own interests is still uncertain. South Africa’s aspirations to act as an interlocutor between the BRICS and Africa also remains contested on the continent. A key challenge for Tshwane relates to how it can navigate tensions between its “African agenda” (promoting security and development on the continent and ensuring that Africa has a strong global role), its ambitions to play a leadership role on the continent, and its ability to wield influence within the BRICS, of which it is the smallest member, accounting for only about 2 percent of the bloc’s economic might.


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