WATCH | What to expect from the Brics summit

21 August 2023 - 11:18 By Reuters
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Leaders of countries that account for more than a quarter of the global economy are set to meet in South Africa this week.

Up for discussion at the Brics summit starting tomorrow is how to turn the loose club of nations into a geopolitical force capable of challenging the West's dominance in global affairs.

Brics stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The leaders of those countries will be in physical attendance with one notable exception.

That is Russian President Vladimir Putin who faces an international arrest warrant over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. He is expected to attend the summit virtually.

Few details have emerged about what the Brics leaders plan to discuss.

However, expansion is expected to be high on the agenda.

About 40 nations have shown an interest in joining either formally or informally, officials have said, including Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Egypt.

However, there could be tensions.

China wants to enlarge Brics quickly as it tussles with the US for geopolitical influence.

Brazil is resisting, fearing the already unwieldy club could see its stature diluted.

Russia is keen to bring in new members as it seeks friends amid its diplomatic isolation over Ukraine.

Its most important African ally, South Africa, is on the same page.

India is on the fence.

What unites the bloc is scepticism about a world order they see as serving the interests of the US and its wealthy nation allies.

Brics nations are keen to project themselves as alternative development partners to the West.

The bloc's New Development Bank (NDB) wants to dedollarise finance and offer an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. However, it has only approved $33bn (about R628bn) of loans in nearly a decade.

That's about a third of the amount the World Bank committed to disbursing last year.

The NDB has also been hobbled by sanctions on Russia.

South African officials said talk of a Brics currency, mooted by Brazil earlier this year as an alternative to dollar-dependence, is off the table.

Nevertheless, foreign minister Naledi Pandor has said Brics wants to show “leadership”, particularly in terms of “the development and inclusion of the Global South in multilateral systems”.

The theme of the Johannesburg summit is “Brics and Africa”. That emphasises how the bloc can build ties on a continent increasingly becoming a theatre for competition between world powers.

Africa is also in the eye of the climate change storm.

Carbon-intensive Brics nations, accounting for 40% of the global population, also make up about the same share of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brics countries blame rich nations for causing the most global warming and want them to take on more of the burden of decarbonising the world's energy supply.

Officials in Brazil, China and South Africa said climate change may come up at the summit, but indicated it wouldn't be a priority.

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