Brics grows by 6 new members. What does it mean?


It is with some relief that only one new member of Brics has a name starting with a consonant or the new acronym would have been a nightmare. That disaster averted, XA will send a bottle of whisky to the first person who correctly identifies the new Brics acronym!

What are the implications of the six new members joining on 1 January 2024? In some ways none. Aside from the Brics New Development Bank and Russia invading Ukraine, Brics has not really done much and the more members you add, the harder it will be to get anything done. On the other hand, South Africa’s membership of Brics has been a cause of significant stress, with no appreciable payoff.

The 11 countries that make up Brics+ from next year will consist of four real democracies (Argentina, Brazil, India and South Africa) and the rest either autocracies or shadow democracies. Certainly, Brics is starting to feel rather anti-Western which could have interesting implications going forward. Adding Argentina to the bloc will immediately make a Brics currency much harder to achieve, even if that is just an agreement to trade with the group’s currencies for intra-Brics trade. After all, who wants to be left holding the Argentinian Peso. Yet even after depreciating 87% in 8 months, it is not the worst currency to join Brics. This honour goes to Iran, where American sanctions are so severe that there has been no official trade in their currency this year.

SA trade with Brics+

China and India account for 73% of our imports from Brics+ nations and 81% of our exports (based on 2022 data). That tiny blocks in the bottom right hand corners are Iran, Egypt and Ethiopia. Even Russia at abut 1.3% of our Brics trade is more significant. This is not to say this cannot change, but its not clear what would cause that to happen.

How will our big trading partners view SA now?

I don’t think much will change in the short term. I’m sure there will be some complaining about some of the new members, especially Iran, but I doubt much more will happen. The world will be watching Brics+ closely and if the anti-Western rhetoric escalates, things could get quite exciting. Which things exactly? I don’t know yet.

We should watch the US closely. If the Agoa forum doesn’t happen in South Africa then we should be alarmed.

I get why Russia and China want Brics to expand, but its not clear what’s in it for South Africa. Except for Egypt and Ethiopia, none of the countries which joined are likely to increase trade with South Africa. Egypt and Ethiopia will be because of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), not Brics. None of these countries will bring significant investment, but many do bring additional risk.

I want this to work. I hope it works, but its not clear to me how it will work.

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