BRICS: New Dynamics and Global Governance Reform

Patience Masua

The landscape of global governance is undergoing a seismic shift as the BRICS bloc welcomes six new members: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This expansion underscores the BRICS’ commitment to reshaping the international order, challenging Western dominance, and reforming global institutions.

As these new entrants join the ranks of emerging economies, a comprehensive analysis is crucial to unveiling the potential implications of this transformation and how it aligns with the BRICS’ reformative ambitions, particularly in fortifying the voice of multilateralism.

At its core, BRICS was conceived as a platform to champion the principles of multilateralism—a collective approach to global affairs that emphasises collaboration, negotiation, and consensus-building among nations. It sought to further level the playing field for emerging economies, driven by their shared aspirations for an equitable global governance framework. By leveraging their combined GDP and substantial share of the global population, the BRICS bloc has already positioned itself as a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

The incorporation of its new members into BRICS ushers in a chapter rife with opportunities and challenges. Collectively, these nations offer considerable economic

potential, although their individual contributions to the overall GDP of BRICS may be initially modest. While the original BRICS six command a formidable 26.3% of the global GDP in 2023, the new entrants nudge this figure to 29.3%. Among the original six, China’s economic prowess stands out, with a GDP of $19.374 trillion, representing a staggering 18.4% of the global GDP. In contrast, South Africa’s GDP is $399 billion, accounting for 0.4%. The collective GDP of the new entrants is $3.113 trillion, translating to a combined 3% share of the global capital GDP. While the economic clout of these economies is evident, the true impact lies in their potential to collectively wield influence in global economic governance reforms. BRICS has always derived its potency from its vast population, primarily driven by China and India’s billion-plus inhabitants. By welcoming Ethiopia (126.5 million) and Egypt (112.7 million), BRICS adds demographic muscle to its arsenal. Should BRICS continue expanding its ranks, the group
could conceivably surpass the 50% threshold of the global population. However, translating this demographic strength into substantive policy influence requires strategic alignment and cohesive action—a formidable challenge in itself.

Notably, the entry of Saudi Arabia—a significant oil producer-reshapes BRICS’ role in the global energy market. Saudi Arabia’s contribution of 12.9% to global oil production significantly amplifies BRICS’ influence in the oil sector. While the global shift towards renewable energy is underway, the inclusion of oil-producing nations underscores BRICS’ strategic approach to diversification and economic resilience.

Implications for Multilateralism and Global Institutional Reform As BRICS expands its ranks, the group’s overarching objective of reshaping global governance structures takes centre stage. The bloc has consistently highlighted the need for an equitable redistribution of influence within organisations like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. The inclusion of new members adds fresh voices to this call for reform, potentially bolstering BRICS’ advocacy in international forums.

However, the internal diversity of the new members may present a formidable challenge. Disparate geopolitical interests, foreign policy priorities, and relations with Western powers could impede the group’s progress towards meaningful global governance reform. The reform agenda requires unanimity among members, and the differing priorities of the new entrants might complicate efforts to present a united front. Additionally, the expansion might necessitate revisiting existing internal arrangements and mechanisms for decision-making, as the diverse interests of the new members must be accommodated while maintaining the cohesion of the group.

The expanded BRICS holds the potential to become an influential force in pushing forward critical global governance reforms. The inclusion of nations from varied geographical regions enriches the group’s pool of ideas, challenging conventional narratives and promoting innovative solutions. Saudi Arabia and Iran, in particular, bring unique insights given their positions in critical global hotspots. Notably, Ethiopia and Egypt’s inclusion brings a strong African representation to BRICS, supporting South Africa. This expansion empowers BRICS to address development challenges in an African context.

The expansion of the BRICS members signifies not only a change in membership but also an opportunity to recalibrate the global governance landscape by reforming advocacy with greater geopolitical weight. It fundamentally transforms the coalition’s dynamics. While the economic impact of these new members may vary, their collective strength in GDP, population, and oil production speaks volumes. The path to success rests in BRICS’ ability to harness this collective strength and align diverse interests, translating demographic and economic power into a formidable force that substantively contributes to global governance reform. As BRICS navigates this new chapter, the world watches with anticipation to witness the extent of its impact and the transformative changes it brings to the global stage.

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