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PoliticsSouth Africa

BRICS group invites 6 new members to join next year

August 24, 2023

Leaders of the BRICS group of emerging economies said they have invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates to join.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, China's President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose for a picture at the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg
The debate over enlargement has topped the agenda at the three-day summit taking place in JohannesburgImage: Alet Pretorius/REUTERS

The BRICS group — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — on Thursday said it had invited six countries to join its ranks.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process," he said, adding that the newcomers would be full members as of January 1 next year.

The move is aimed at increasing the clout of a bloc that has pledged to champion the "Global South."

The new countries invited are Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Reflecting on the current world order, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the BRICS summit, "Today's global governance structures reflect yesterday's world." Reform was needed for multilateral institutions to be universal, he added.

"They were largely created in the aftermath of World War II when many African countries were still ruled by colonial powers and were not even at the table," Guterres said, listing the UN Security Council, World Bank and International Monetary Fund as examples.

What did BRICS leaders say?

Leaders of the bloc's five members hailed the decisions in statements following the announcement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who addressed the summit in Johannesburg via video link, said his country intends to deepen ties with African countries. He pledged to remain a reliable partner for food and fuel supplies.

Putin is not attending the meeting person, as host country South Africa would be obliged to arrest him under a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Russia's war in Ukraine.

Screens display Russia's President Vladimir Putin via video link from the Moscow Kremlin during a press conference as part of the 15th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre on August 24, 2023.
Putin is not attending the meeting person, lest he faces arrest under an ICC arrest warrantImage: Sergei Bobylev/dpa/picture alliance

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the move reflected BRICS' determination for unity and cooperation.

Xi described the bloc's expansion as "historic" in remarks following the announcement, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it should be an example to other global institutions founded in the 20th century that have become outdated.

"The expansion and modernization of BRICS is a message that all institutions in the world need to mold themselves according to changing times," Modi said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva praised other countries' interest in joining the bloc, adding it was a testament to the relevance of its pursuit of a new world economic order.

He said BRICS would remain "open to new candidates," and voiced support for Angola, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria joining the bloc in future.

Although BRICS is an acronym for the five current member states, Lula speculated that the organization could retain this name after the expansion.

How did the invited countries react?

The new members also welcomed the invitation.

An Iranian official hailed the new membership as a "historic move." Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president's deputy chief of staff for political affairs said on X it was "a strategic victory for Iran's foreign policy."

UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed said he appreciated his country's inclusion in such an "important group."

"We look forward to a continued commitment of cooperation for the prosperity, dignity and benefit of all nations and people around the world," he posted on X.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed hailed the step as a "great moment" for his country. 

"Ethiopia stands ready to cooperate with all for an inclusive and prosperous global order," Abiy said on X.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said in a statement on Facebook that his country values the trust of the bloc's countries as well as the joining members. 

He hoped the expanded BRICS would achieve economic cooperation, "and work on raising the voice of the [Global] South on various developmental issues and challenges we face, in a way that supports the rights and interests of developing countries."

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that the kingdom appreciated the invitation and would take "the appropriate decision" after studying the details of the proposal.

The minister added that BRICS was "a beneficial and important channel" to strengthen economic coordination.

rmt/rc (dpa, Reuters)