The upcoming BRICS Summit in Johannesburg next month is important for South Africa, the African continent and the global south. The gathering of the world’s major developing countries is expected to discuss a common currency and admit or agree on criteria to admit new members.
Countries which have either applied or lined up to join the global South economic alliance include regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Algeria and Senegal. Formed in 2006, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc’s agenda is to push for a new world order and introduce alternatives to the Western-led and controlled economic, financial and political institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In short, these powerful emerging economies want a fair and just multipolar world, which respects international law, and is not controlled by the US. They also want to counterbalance world trade, policy and political power.
And they have the clout to achieve their goal and reshape the world. The BRICS nations account for 25 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), 41,5 percent of the global population and 26,7 percent of the global surface area. Importantly, the group has a combined GDP of about 25 trillion US dollars, which is bigger than the combined GDP of the G7 nations (US, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Canada and Italy), founded in 1975.
The BRICS leaders have already established the New Development Bank (NDB) to counterbalance the World Bank, one of the Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the US. Collectively, the BRICS member states have the natural resources, wealth, technology, economic muscle, military hardware and political clout in their regions and globally. One of their intentions is to limit the influence and usage of the US dollar as the preeminent global reserve currency. This is because it has been weaponised by America to impose unilateral sanctions against incompliant countries.
A case in point was the US decision to confiscate more than 300 billion dollars in Russia’s foreign currency reserves as punishment for invading Ukraine even though Russia launched its “special military operation” in response to Western provocations. The provocations included NATO’s eastward expansion, and Ukraine’s eight-year crackdown on native Russians in the Donbas region.
To reduce dependency on the West, especially the US, BRICS has pushed an aggressive campaign to replace the US dollar as the global reserve currency with alternative currencies, possibly the Chinese Yuan. And it makes sense. Show me any person who would bank with an institution that unilaterally takes their money as punishment for holding certain socio-economic and political views, or for walking in a certain manner.
Against this backdrop, Africa needs to carefully re-evaluate and diversify its policies in light of the US’ recent threat of using economic instruments as a weapon. It is crucial to consider the potential impact on the continent and take necessary steps to protect its interests. Moreover, such a decision should not be difficult to make. African leaders must just travel the length and breadth of their countries, and visit their neighbours to see what BRICS nations have done for their development.
When Chinese leaders come to Africa, they spend billions of dollars building roads, hospitals and other infrastructure projects, including the African Union headquarters. Russia supported African countries during their fight against Western colonialism and imperialism, and is starting to spend on infrastructure projects on the continent. By contrast, when US and European leaders come to Africa, they spend a lot of their time lecturing locals about human rights, democracy, globalisation, climate change and the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Expectedly, the US has resorted to threats and blackmail in response to the dwindling influence of the dollar. It has reacted the same way to its fading global power and influence, the economic rise of China, the re-emergence of Russia as a superpower and the defeat of NATO in the Ukraine war. One of the perfect examples of this diplomacy by threat and blackmail was the actions of the US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, when he recently claimed that SA violated its non-aligned stance on Russia by providing it with arms.
Brigety contended that “South Africa armed Russia with a vessel that landed in Simon’s Town,’ a naval harbour, in December last year. “We are confident that weapons were loaded onto that vessel, and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” he said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa rightfully rejected Brigety’s unfounded claims, saying that “no evidence has been provided to date to support (Brigety’s) allegations”. Ramaphosa further said that the government would institute an independent inquiry to investigate the claims. Why a sovereign country can “investigate itself” on behalf of another is puzzling.
Most importantly, the US confidence in its claim about the vessel is an inadvertent admission that the US is spying on South Africa and its national key points. The investigation that Ramaphosa should prioritise is why the US is spying on South Africa and its security installations. The US Ambassador’s claims are reminiscent of the false claims by Colin Powell about weapons of mass destruction against Saddam Hussein’s regime to justify its invasion of Iraq in 2003, among others.
Brigety’s media briefing was about more than the Russian ship. He complained about various South African policies concerning the US, including the lack of inclusion of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), Pepfar, and American investment by the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), in its national conference policy documents.
The imperialistic arrogance of the US was in full display when Brigety said that South Africa would not have conducted military drills with Russia and China in Richards Bay on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine if it were non-aligned. The media briefing by the US was an underhanded tactic to force a policy shift from South Africa, especially about the Russia-Ukraine issue, which was very central in the briefing. The claim about weapons supply could be a “shock and awe” tactic of the US or a trick to put South Africa on the back foot.
What other countries in the continent of Africa should find worrying is Brigety’s warning that “in the existing legislation for AGOA, there is already an existing requirement that no recipient of AGOA privileges should take actions that are directly in contrast to the national security interest of the USA. The US is weaponising the trade programme to get a sovereign country to comply with US policy.
Worse, the trade program, AGOA, is unilateral and African leaders have no say in defining its framework. The US dictates the policy, leaving African countries with no choice but to comply. The imperialist and colonialist tactic has evolved into using economic instruments to control policy positions towards the US.
The US does not care about anyone’s interests but its own. So obvious has been America’s imperialist agenda that even French President Emmanuel Macron has recently urged Europe to “resist pressure to become America’s vassels”.
It is against this backdrop that the African continent and the global South, in general, should review their policies, resist US pressure, and rally behind BRICS. Moreover, It’s important for the summit to be held in person, and for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be physically present. Ramaphosa should not agree to Macron’s proposal to attend the BRICS Summit. His presence would be as undesirable as it would be counterproductive.
For starters, Macron is the leader of one of the G7 nations. The US-led economic and political alliance is diametrically opposed to BRICS, and sees the bloc as its geopolitical enemy. The G7 is antagonising BRICS nations. It has already sanctioned Russia, and supplied arms to Ukraine. A recent G7 statement issued after the summit in Japan, which Macron co-signed, declared China as the “biggest threat to global security”, and accused Beijing of “economic coercion”.
The US, the G7’s godfather, has imposed unilateral sanctions on some Chinese goods including semiconductors. The biggest economy in the world has also threatened to sanction South Africa by removing it from AGOA, after falsely claiming Pretoria supplied weapons to Moscow.
Macron turned a blind eye when America and or the G7 manipulated the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a bogus arrest warrant against Putin, and falsely accused him of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia. A leader who turns a blind eye to injustice, abuse of power and international law for expediency should not be allowed anywhere near a gathering as important as the upcoming BRICS Summit.
As such, Macron would self evidently be nothing more than a spoiler or party pooper. Inviting him would be like having your chief enemy at your wedding. He would either snitch or make your guests uncomfortable. So far, South Africa’s stance has been progressive, and thanks to the Ramaphosa administration for resisting American pressure and blackmail for the country to isolate Russia and Putin, using Western tools such as the discredited ICC and the weaponised AGOA.
The US must not be allowed to use its diplomacy by threat and blackmail to derail BRICS, frustrate the future of Africa and the global South, and reverse the new and just multipolar world. The childish drama involving a South African plane in Poland was nothing but a desperate attempt to force Ramaphosa’s hand. The aim was to stop or make the BRICS Summit chaotic. Luckily, it didn’t work.
The era of US hegemony, abuse of military power to impose its will, unilateral sanctions, wanton killings and regime changes in Africa and the Middle East, and interference in the affairs of other nations, is over. And the developing world has BRICS, and China and Russia in particular, to thank for removing the yoke of American slavery from their shoulders.
In this regard, the BRICS countries should not allow the West to spoil their party directly, or through Macron. He should focus on the ongoing unrest in France, racial profiling, police brutality and other myriad internal challenges at home. Macron should not be allowed to feast while Rome burns.
Already, nearly 30 developing countries have either applied or expressed the desire to join BRICS. With this momentum and hope, South Africa can’t afford to fail Africa and the global South.
Mahasha Rampedi is the Editor-In-Chief of African Times.