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New Brics bank is SA`s chance to find its rightful place in international affairs, writes UJ’s David Monyae with Dr Westen Shilaho

The ninth Brics summit involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which took place in Xiamen, China, this week, saw diplomatic ties among Brics member states boosted following the withdrawal of troops on both sides of the Himalayan border area between India and China after more than two months, writes Dr David Monyae.

Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University Of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece together with Dr Westen K Shilaho, entitled “New Brics bank is SA`s chance to find its rightful place in international affairs “, published in the Sunday Times, 10 September 2017.

The easing of tension between the two countries was consistent with the summit`s commitment to enhance peace and security in the world and fight terrorism. There was consensus at the summit that addressing poverty and unemployment had to be prioritised. More welcome news was that South Africa had recovered from recession, an indication that its economy is in upswing. Brics took a stance against protectionism and spoke in defence of trade liberalisation and an open world economy.

The summit took place after the launch of the African Regional Centre of the Brics New Development Bank last month. Addressing Africa`s poverty paradox The NDB is the first tangible Brics achievement since inception an attempt to change the post- Cold War financial order. It is poised to play a major role in the development of Africa and other emerging markets. The Western-dominated World Bank is hesitant to invest in certain ventures in Africa for lack of immediate returns.

Once it expands beyond the Brics member states, the NDB will complement what China has been doing for years investing in Africa`s infrastructural development. The NDB is a welcome initiative that will hopefully help to address Africa`s paradox of The ninth Brics summit involving Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which took place in Xiamen, China, this week, saw diplomatic ties among Brics member states boosted following the withdrawal of troops on both sides of the Himalayan border area between India and China after more than two months. The easing of tension between the two countries was consistent with the summit`s commitment to enhance peace and security in the world and fight terrorism.

There was consensus at the summit that addressing poverty and unemployment had to be prioritised. More welcome news was that South Africa had recovered from recession, an indication that its economy is in upswing. Brics took a stance against protectionism and spoke in defence of trade liberalisation and an open world economy. The summit took place after the launch of the African Regional Centre of the Brics New Development Bank last month. Addressing Africa`s poverty paradox The NDB is the first tangible Brics achievement since inception an attempt to change the post- Cold War financial order. It is poised to play a major role in the development of Africa and other emerging markets.

The Western-dominated World Bank is hesitant to invest in certain ventures in Africa for lack of immediate returns. Once it expands beyond the Brics member states, the NDB will complement what China has been doing for years investing in Africa`s infrastructural development. The NDB is a welcome initiative that will hopefully help to address Africa`s paradox of being richly endowed with resources yet beset by poverty. Overall, Brics member states need to address poverty, and particularly the feminisation of poverty, if it hopes to help emancipate women in Africa.

The AU`s much-vaunted Agenda 2063, if implemented, constitutes a blueprint with the potential to transform Africa socially, economically and politically. The realisation of this programme depends on political will and the extent to which individual African countries can integrate it into their national development frameworks, something history has demonstrated to be a battle for individual African countries. Agenda 2063 is not flawless. It has been faulted as yet another top-down development approach, which has proved ineffective. The absence of citizen input into this model is one of its inadequacies as Africa`s leaders do not necessarily speak for and in the best interests of the continent`s citizens.

Brics needs to transform itself into a cohesive entity to chip away at the hegemonic dominance of the West in global affairs, but the asymmetrical power imbalance within Brics, as well as inherent competing interests, are hurdles. Apart from the border dispute between India and China, both countries have rival economic and political interests in Asia, Africa and globally. Brics has the potential to present another global power besides the US and the EU, but this will not happen while inherent faultlines in the bloc are overlooked. Agenda 2063 and the African Agenda face country-specific challenges as well as continental rivalries. Specifically, South Africa has to contend with the rivalry presented by Nigeria.

The latter tends to regard itself as deserving of membership in Brics, on the strength of its economy being the largest in Africa. Although the NDB has a role to play in Africa`s development agenda, it cannot become the magic wand for the continent`s social, economic, and political challenges. Hence there is need for resource mobilisation within Africa. Africa`s development plans must prioritise women and gender equity since addressing these challenges is integral to reducing poverty and inequality. Development must be inclusive and benefit the citizenry, not solely the power wielders and their cronies. Chance to fill leadership vacuum Brics could fill the void created by a crisis of leadership in the world in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump, who pursues an inward-looking `America First` agenda.

The crystallisation of the common agenda within Brics and resolution of supremacist politics within some of its member states such as India and Russia would enhance its chances of filling this global leadership void. South Africa, Brazil and India are democracies while China and Russia are not enthusiastic when it comes to true democracy. South Africa needs to move away from the Cold War reading of global affairs: none of the other Brics member states read the world through that prism despite some ideological differences between China and the US, as well as Russia and the West. South Africa must also concretise its aims within the Brics bloc. It could not possibly concretise the African agenda if it cannot spell oil its role in Brics. Although there are competing national interests among Brics countries, South Africa as the only African member must champion the continent`s interests without purporting to speak on behalf of it, leaving individual states to engage with other Brics countries at bilateral level. in Brics, on the strength of its economy being the largest in Africa. Although the NDB has a role to play in Africa`s development agenda, it cannot become the magic wand for the continent`s social, economic, and political challenges. Hence there is need for resource mobilisation within Africa.

Africa`s development plans must prioritise women and gender equity since addressing these challenges is integral to reducing poverty and inequality. Development must be inclusive and benefit the citizenry, not solely the power wielders and their cronies. Chance to fill leadership vacuum Brics could fill the void created by a crisis of leadership in the world in the wake of the election of President Donald Trump, who pursues an inward-looking `America First` agenda.

The crystallisation of the common agenda within Brics and resolution of supremacist politics within some of its member states such as India and Russia would enhance its chances of filling this global leadership void. South Africa, Brazil and India are democracies while China and Russia are not enthusiastic when it comes to true democracy. South Africa needs to move away from the Cold War reading of global affairs: none of the other Brics member states read the world through that prism despite some ideological differences between China and the US, as well as Russia and the West. South Africa must also concretise its aims within the Brics bloc. It could not possibly concretise the African agenda if it cannot spell oil its role in Brics. Although there are competing national interests among Brics countries, South Africa as the only African member must champion the continent`s interests without purporting to speak on behalf of it, leaving individual states to engage with other Brics countries at bilateral level.

Dr Monyae is a political analyst and co-director of the University of Johannesburg`s Confucius Institute, and Dr Westen Shilaho is an NRF Research Fellow, South African Research Chair (SARChl) in African Diplomacy and Foreign, University of Johannesburg.

*The views expressed in the article are that of the author/s and do not necessary reflect that of the University of Johannesburg

 

 

Dr Westen Shilaho
Dr Westen Shilaho
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