The BRICS, an acronym made up of the group’s members of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is one of the most significant economic blocs on the international map, deriving much of its importance from its transcontinental character.
Between them, the five countries making up the group represent more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and over 23 per cent of its GDP. Their share of international trade is around 16 per cent. Both Iran and Argentina applied to join the group in June.
Egyptian membership of the BRICS would bring various benefits with it. Egypt represents the gateway to the Middle East and the African continent, and it possesses abundant natural and human resources that could create higher-yielding investment opportunities and provide a vast market for trade in goods and services.
The BRICS is also an important platform for promoting South-South cooperation, and it dramatically influences the economic and political influence of its member countries, all of which are also members of the G20 group of nations.
Over the past 16 years and since the establishment of the BRICS, its mechanisms have been deepened, cooperation strengthened, and fields of cooperation widened. One important development has been the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) in 2015 to mobilise resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other emerging economies and developing countries.
The NDB has an authorised capital of $100 billion, and it is open for subscription by members of the UN. Following the establishment of the NDB, there was the introduction of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), a framework for supporting countries facing short-term balance of payments pressures.
In December 2021, Egypt joined the New Development Bank (NDB), becoming its fourth new member after Bangladesh, the UAE, and Uruguay. Egypt’s economy has been praised by the president of the NDB, who said that “Egypt is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries, a major economy in the African continent and the Middle East region, as well as a key player in development finance institutions.”
Joining the NDB was a critical step towards consolidating ties with the BRICS countries, as the NDB contributes through its diversified financial instruments to increasing cooperation among the BRICS countries and other developing non-member states. This is consistent with Egypt’s efforts to boost its economy’s resilience and diversify its funding sources.
Moreover, Egypt benefits from the NDB’s financial support in meeting the government’s financing and investment needs in infrastructure and sustainable development, attracting foreign investment, and enhancing the role of the private sector.
The BRICS group was formed in 2006 when the foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India, and China met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, marking the beginning of BRIC cooperation. In June 2009, the BRIC leaders held their first meeting in Russia, upgrading their cooperation to the summit level. In 2011, with South Africa officially becoming a member, the BRIC was enlarged to the BRICS group of countries.
Egypt and the BRICS countries share a common vision of political and economic issues. Egypt has also participated in two BRICS summits, the first in 2017 and the second earlier this year when it was invited as a guest to the BRICS Plus High-Level Dialogue in June.
The impact of BRICS cooperation goes beyond the original five member countries, creating a constructive engine for bolstering world economic growth and sustainable development, improving global governance, and promoting democratic and balanced international relations.
Changes in the international arena necessitate the strengthening of cooperation at all levels in order to achieve comprehensive peace and sustainable economic development. It is for these and other reasons that Egypt and other countries have applied for membership of the BRICS.
The writer is a member of staff at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 July, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.