Working together can help BRICS members expand their engagement with Africa

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/31 22:13:39

Will the BRICS serve as economic drivers in Africa? It depends on the synergy force created when the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - work in unison in their engagement with African countries.

Apart from BRICS members, China has invited the leaders of African countries including Egypt and Guinea to the upcoming BRICS Summit. In recent years, cooperation between China and Africa has made remarkable progress in various areas. Guinea's President Alpha Conde said in a recent interview with China's State broadcaster that China is the leading nation among BRICS members in terms of cooperation with his country.

It seems China has become a bellwether for Africa's cooperation with developing countries. Some emerging economies follow the example set by Sino-African cooperation, while others deem China a potential rival as they also seek to beef up their presence in the continent. In May, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Africa was a top priority for his government's foreign economic policy, and he made a proposal for the Asia Africa Growth Corridor. BRICS countries should consider how to respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by their enthusiasm for Africa and capitalize on this to increase cooperation.

The BRICS nations share common goals and interests in exploiting the African market but in many cases they take a relatively independent approach in this regard. The BRICS can perhaps become a platform to establish effective mechanisms for coordination of its members' engagement with Africa.

It is particularly important to encourage the participation of African countries in cooperation arrangements among the BRICS countries. China's efforts to widen the circle of friends of the BRICS, known as "BRICS Plus," will be conducive to this effort. Besides Egypt and Guinea, other African countries should seek invitations to attend the next BRICS Summit and various working group meetings.

Agencies or related organizations within the BRICS mechanism need to systematically build up a presence on the continent. Ahead of the BRICS Summit, the Africa Regional Center of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) was launched in South Africa, where President Jacob Zuma reportedly said the bank would benefit not only BRICS countries but also the whole of Africa. According to media reports, it is very likely for the NDB to approve new members in 2017 or 2018. African countries should be considered as potential candidates to promote the establishment of broader partnerships. Increasing the representation of African countries in the NDB will also broaden channels for BRICS countries to strengthen their cooperation with the hopeful continent.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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