Despite a knock at the door, no one seems to be home. The BRICS group says they are pleased to receive the applications of around 20 countries who wish to join this club of emerging economies, but the lucky ones have not yet been chosen.
Among them are two African countries: Egypt and Algeria. However, the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting, in Cape Town on 1-2 June, was unable to determine the criteria for filtering the candidates.
Beijing hopes many candidates will join the BRICS family.
This contrasts with Beijing’s enthusiasm, which hopes to see even more candidates join “the great family of BRICS,” according to Ma Zhaoxu, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“As soon as we have a document that clarifies things, we will present it at the summit in August. We want to conclude this work before the heads of state meet,” said Naledi Pandor, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.
Meanwhile, an opening towards the Middle East is en route. The Saudi Foreign Minister was present in Cape Town, where he discussed enlargement in a bilateral meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. The Iranian Minister had his own separate meeting with Pandor. The most serious African candidates, Algeria and Egypt, were not present.
Symbolic enlargement took place on the second day of the meeting: the “Friends of BRICS” were invited to join the founding fathers at the 12 Apostles Hotel on the outskirts of Cape Town. About 13 ministers participated in the meeting, including five representatives from African countries: Comoros, which holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau (by a taped message), Egypt (remotely), and the DRC, which currently chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Kinshasa seems to adhere to the BRICS’ assessment of a world under domination. “We encourage all initiatives aimed at achieving change to establish a balanced, constructive and fair international order…we hope that BRICS will contribute effectively to the achievement of this noble struggle,” said Christophe Lutundula, the Congolese Foreign Minister. And what does he think of the presence of Russia, an aggressive country, within BRICS? “It is the members who judge, not us.”
This marks the DRC’s first invitation, with a primarily economic opportunity. The BRICS are interested in the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and have chosen “Africa and BRICS, a partnership for accelerated mutual growth” as their theme. Invited to speak first, Dhoihir Dhoulkamal, the Comorian Foreign Minister, was introduced by his South African counterpart as the “spokesman for 55 African states and 1.4 billion Africans…[and a] part of a continental economy worth $3trn,” she said.
The BRICS remain a closed circle since South Africa’s integration in 2010. Today, Africans are invited to play the role of observers. All heads of state on the continent will be invited by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to participate in the summit, which will be held on 22-24 August in Johannesburg.
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