Blog: WorldView

Will the rise of the emerging economies portend just a broadening of the “great game” in Africa? Or will the global South seize this opportunity to forge a new and more inclusive paradigm that secures faster and more sustainable development for all citizens? Can we look forward to exciting paradigm shifts in the discourses on global trade, aid, development cooperation and the rhetoric of best practice? Will emergent regional and global plurilateral groupings afford new avenues for effective development cooperation?

MIKTA? Who the hell is MIKTA?! Well, we’ll have you know that MIKTA stands for a new minilateral: MEXICO-INDONESIA-SOUTH KOREA-TURKEY-AUSTRALIA! Sarcasm aside, given all the alphabeticals strewn along the global path to multipolarity, MIKTA actually ought to be taken quite seriously.

The Observer Research Foundation's comprehensive document, A long-term vision for BRICS,  synthesises a raft of policy documents that have been drafted since the official inception of BRICS in 2008 (later joined by South Africa in 2010). It is a candid examination of the challenges faced by the BRICs grouping in its attempts to forge a common vision that can be shared by the five member countries.

First, thanks to the South African Foreign Policy Initiative for inviting me to comment on A long-term vision for BRICS, by Samir Saran, Ashok Kumar Singh and Vivan Sharan, Observer Research Foundation.  It’s definitely the right topic – to what extent is the BRICS an artificial construct?

I thank the South African Foreign Policy Initiative for asking me to comment on this paper (A long-term vision for BRICS, by Samir Saran, Ashok Kumar Singh and Vivan Sharan, Observer Research Foundation) which is one of the most detailed that I have seen on trying to guide the BRICS countries to have more common purpose as well as continue their rise to power.

Since the 4th BRICS Summit in Delhi in March 2012, things seem to have largely gone downhill for the BRICS members. Brazil's economy has lost its vigor, and stifling regulations keep it from becoming more competitive. Growth in China has fallen far below the 10% mark, potentially endangering political stability. India's  currency is hitting a “historic low” or a “lifetime low", reflecting its sliding economy. Russia, for its part, is struggling to diversify its economy, while South Africa must be careful not to be overtaken by challengers that seek to turn into the continent's economic hub, such as Nigeria or Kenya.

The pygmy elephant in the room of the Overseas Research Foundation’s long-term vision (LTV) initiative for BRICS is a little focused on acronym, 'RIC' – as in Russia-India-China. They form the ministerial trilateral between the three Eurasian giants for sustaining a dialogue on their bilateral relationships within a sort of ‘strategic triangle.’ Hence: ‘pygmy elephant.’ It involves foreign ministers, not heads-of-state. But it is a pachyderm nonetheless, since this pygmy gave birth to that giant called BRICS.

Three months after the Seleka rebel coalition took power from François Bozizé’s decade-old regime, the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains uncertain. Relief organisations have limited access to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the economy is in freefall. The security situation in Bangui is gradually normalising, but the new national-unity government has found no solution to the country’s essential governance challenges (democratisation, security sector reform, economic governance reform, including the management of natural resources).

The Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi, a pace-setter in setting the BRICS intellectual agenda has commendably initiated a dialogue within the BRICS think-tank community aimed at arriving at a ‘long-term vision’ for BRICS. This is an exercise facing major challenges which, in the process, begs the question about a long-term vision for that other minilateral platform, the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Trilateral Dialogue Forum. The BRICS long-term vision challenge and the questions it raises about one for IBSA are intimately related and therefore provide a basis for assessing the comparative advantages and limitations of both. Both have arrived at a point of reflecting on the future.

The China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund) is a private equity fund established in June 2007. It was initiated by President Hu Jintao at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, as one of the measures to forge a "new type of China-Africa strategic partnership, strengthening bilateral cooperation in more areas and at a higher level" (CAD-Fund, China Development Bank) and to encourage and support Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa. According to its promotional materials:

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