A planned announcement on the expansion of BRICS at a summit in Johannesburg later this month isn’t aimed at countering the West, which remains a crucial trading partner for South Africa, an official said.
“I don’t think we see BRICS as being pro-Russia or anti-Western. I think that would be extremely wrong,” South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said.
“We have said many times before that South Africa’s trading partners in the West are very important to South Africa’s economic progress,” she told journalists at an online briefing Monday.
Africa’s most industrialized nation’s biggest trading partners are China and the US. It’s faced pressure from the latter to stop using Huawei in its mobile networks as Washington’s fight to suppress China’s technology ambitions escalates. The US has also criticized South Africa over its non-aligned stance toward Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will set out strict criteria for who will be allowed to join the bloc when they meet Aug. 22-24, Pandor said.
Twenty-two nations have asked formally to become full-time members of the group, and more than 20 others have submitted informal requests.
BRICS, which invited South Africa to join in 2010, has failed to punch its weight as a group. That’s despite its members representing more than 42% of the world’s population and accounting for 23% of global gross domestic product and 18% of trade, giving credence to demands for more sway.
“I would guard against having any sort of criteria for expansion that lead us down a path where we contribute to increasing conflict in the global community,” Pandor said.
“It is not by any means an intention to build some form of bloc that is anti-Western, and I hope you will not convey any such intention on our part,” she said.
The minister also said the summit would put to rest the narrative that BRICS members remain divided on expansion.
“I don’t think there is any longer a need to say this one is hesitant and this one isn’t,” Pandor said. “I think countries will speak for themselves, and my expectation is that there will be a final view from the leaders, and I hope we will be able to put this matter to rest.”
China’s President Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend in person while Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and its President Vladimir Putin will participate online.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will host his Chinese counterpart for a state visit on the sidelines of the summit and may do the same with India’s prime minister.