BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism. This is the theme for the 2023 BRICS summit, which will be chaired by South Africa.
The announcement that South Africa will chair the BRICS group of countries in 2023 under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism” has garnered a lot of attention. As social investment stakeholders, we have interacted with this announcement from a devil's advocate perspective to understand the potential drawbacks and potential of this partnership.
While there are concerns about the feasibility of the partnership, it is important to note that BRICS has already made significant contributions to the development agenda of emerging economies through the New Development Bank. The bank has funded infrastructure projects in developing countries and provided much-needed financial support to the Global South.
The BRICS-Africa partnership aims to unlock mutually beneficial opportunities for increased trade, investment, and infrastructure development. While economic growth is an important objective, the partnership seems to prioritize it at the expense of social and environmental sustainability.
For instance, the focus on infrastructure development raises concerns about the impact of these projects on the environment, especially if they are not aligned with sustainable development goals.
The emphasis on increased trade and investment could also lead to the exploitation of natural resources, which can have long-term environmental consequences.
Furthermore, economic growth alone is not enough to address the social challenges faced by African nations. While increased trade and investment may create employment opportunities and stimulate economic growth, they may not necessarily translate into improved living standards for local communities. In fact, there is a risk that economic growth may exacerbate existing social inequalities, such as access to education, healthcare, and basic services.
Therefore, it is important to prioritize social development alongside economic growth, to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are distributed equitably and promote inclusive development.
It is crucial to acknowledge the interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Neglecting environmental concerns could have adverse social and economic consequences, such as loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and water scarcity. Therefore, a sustainable development agenda should seek to balance economic growth with social and environmental sustainability, ensuring that economic development is pursued in a way that is consistent with social and environmental goals.
To replicate the successes of the New Development Bank, it would be prudent to identify and invest in sustainable infrastructure projects that will support the growth and development of the African continent.
There are also concerns about the effectiveness of multilateralism in this partnership. However, by focusing on the needs and concerns of the Global South, BRICS can advocate for meaningful participation of African countries and other countries of the Global South in the United Nations and other global governance institutions. This includes reform of the UN Security Council to ensure that African countries and other countries of the Global South are properly represented.
There are several case studies that can be used as reference for lessons learned. One such example is China's Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to increase connectivity and trade between China and countries across Asia, Europe, and Africa. The initiative has invested heavily in infrastructure development, including railways, ports, and highways, providing much-needed support to developing countries in these regions.
Another example is the African Continental Free Trade Area, which aims to create a single market for goods and services in Africa and facilitate the movement of goods and services between African countries. By promoting intra-African trade, the AfCFTA can create new economic opportunities for the continent.
To replicate the successes of these partnerships, it is important to prioritize sustainable development and inclusive growth. This requires investment in infrastructure projects that are environmentally sustainable and support local communities. Engagement with local companies and (specifically) social entrepreneurs should be prioritized in these partnerships to foster inclusive economic growth.
The BRICS partnership presents a significant opportunity for promoting effective multilateralism and supporting the participation of African countries and other countries of the Global South in the global community.
Through the proposed theme of "BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism," South Africa's chairship of the BRICS group in 2023 seeks to harness the potential of the BRICS partnership to unlock mutually beneficial opportunities for increased trade, investment, and infrastructure development.
As demonstrated by the New Development Bank, the BRICS partnership can make a tangible contribution to financing sustainable development projects in emerging market and developing economies.
However, to replicate these successes and unlock the full potential of the BRICS partnership, a sustained commitment to inclusive, transparent, and accountable governance is required. This includes advocating for the needs and concerns of the Global South within global governance institutions like the United Nations and working towards meaningful participation of women in peace processes.
The BRICS partnership also extends beyond the governments of the member countries, with bodies like the BRICS Business Council, BRICS Women’s Business Alliance, BRICS Think Tanks Council and BRICS Civil Forum ensuring that the opportunities of this association are explored across society. As such, it presents an opportunity for promoting people-to-people contact and enhancing travel and tourism between BRICS countries.
Overall, the BRICS partnership can play a significant role in promoting sustainable development, effective multilateralism, and inclusive participation in the global community. Through sustained commitment and collaboration among member countries and other stakeholders, it can contribute to unlocking mutually beneficial opportunities for growth, development, and integration in Africa and the broader Global South.
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