With the economies of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) grouping facing severe economic and political challenges, it poses the question whether the strategic partnerships formed under the umbrella can be sustained.
Institute of Global Dialogue (IGD) acting executive director Philani Mthembu on Wednesday said that while South Africa had its own challenges, Brazil was also in dire straits, while China and Russia faced downturns in their economies, the latter being sanctioned by the European Union and the US.
Addressing a roundtable at an IGD-hosted talk on the role of Brics in an age of multipolarity, Mthembu further noted that while India was an exception, as it was still experiencing economic growth, it was hampering intraregional growth through its long-standing dispute with Pakistan.
This, IGD senior research associate Francis Kornegay noted, was creating a sense of contradiction and discord between the countries. “Brics is increasingly taking the form of Ric (Russia, India and China),” he said, adding that the Brics grouping was being packaged as anti-American and anti-West.
He added that, not only was South Africa’s economy showing no signs of improvement, it also appeared to him that the country had “a government at sea”, as it was facing the possibility of a credit ratings downgrade to junk status.
Mthembu, meanwhile, stated that unless countries were producing alternatives that restructured societies and dealt with mass inequality, and unless they were leading that type of thinking, they would remain stuck in the “ordinary discussions” of whether they were posing a threat to Western dominance, which were becoming stale.
Meanwhile, Kornegay argued that investing time and capital in the Brics economies was not wasted, as the grouping was not temporary, “or it does not have to be”, adding that it created spin-offs that could continue to bring economic value to the group members.
“There are institutional outcomes, such as the New Development Bank,” he noted. However, he said that if each country only focused on their own interests, it would continually complicate the agenda of the grouping.