XV BRICS Summit: President Samia spells out Tanzania’s position and interests 

SOUTH AFRICA : THE 15th BRICS Summit and the BRICS – Africa Outreach and BRICS Plus Dialogue was held in Sandton, Gauteng, South Africa from 22nd -24th  August 2023.

This well-organised BRICS Summit, much credit to the Government of South Africa, was the third and historical one to be hosted by South Africa.

It was well attended by over 40 Heads of State and Government including our own President Samia Suluhu Hassan. The theme of the Summit was BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism. The next BRICS Summit is planned to be held next year in the City of Kazan – Russia.

All the original five BRICS leaders attended the meeting except for President Vladimir Putin who addressed the meeting virtually in 17 minutes of recorded speech. The BRICS XV Summit as expected announced the acceptance of six new countries to join the BRICS out of the 23 countries which are said to have applied to join the bloc being the first phase of the expansion.

Announcing the new members, President Cyril Ramaphosa said BRICS leaders have decided to invite Argentina Republic, The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to become full members of BRICS from 01st January 2024.

It was further explained that BRICS countries reached consensus in the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the BRICS expansion process and this decision is in line with BRICS spirit and commitment to inclusive multilateralism. President Ramaphosa was also quick to clarify that BRICS bloc is democratic in its decision-making process and general conduct of its business allaying fears that the bloc will follow the United Nations Security Council-UNSC model which many are calling for it to be reformed.

Tanzania did not apply for BRICS membership this time around, but President Samia who was honoured to be invited to speak during the plenary session and at the luncheon at the Summit, made it clear that Tanzania will remain a true friend and partner of BRICS and supporter of all its constructive interventions.

President Samia further advised that the BRICS- Africa partnership needs to be focused on unlocking potential opportunities on our continent towards realisation of both Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals which include the operationalisation of the AfCFTA and continued trade and investment partnership.

The President also underscored the continued relevance and validity of multilateralism pointing out “… In times like these in which we face serious global challenges, the international community should be united not fragmented and be willing to take collective measures in addressing such challenges as poverty, climate change, health and food insecurity, conflicts and others.”

In the face of the polycrises and rising global uncertainty, President Samia was optimistic that meaningful dialogues will advance deliberations geared towards resolving the complex challenges facing countries both individually and collectively. She called for redoubled efforts and concrete action to the north–south divide to deepen strategic financial trade, investment and economic order.

President Samia’s views were echoed by the BRICS in the statement released on the 23rd    August. In their 26 pages Johannesburg BRICS Declaration, outlined a wide range of issues concerning partnership for inclusive multilateralism, fostering an environment of peace and development, partnership for mutually accelerated growth, Partnership for sustainable development, deepening people to people exchanges and institutional development.

The Declaration called for greater representation of emerging markets and developing countries with increased role and share of women from EMDCs at different levels of representations in international organisations. It further encouraged multilateral financial institutions and international organisations to play a constructive role in building global consensus on economic policies and preventing systemic risks of economic disruption and financial fragmentation.

It expressed its belief that African Continental Free Trade Area and BRICS cooperation presents opportunities for the Continent to transition away from its historic role as commodity exporter towards higher productivity value addition. Also acknowledged the urgent need for tourism industry recovery and strengthening the BRICS Alliance for Green tourism in order to promote a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.

On peace and security, the Declaration expressed its concern on the ongoing conflicts in many parts of the world, stressing the commitment to the peaceful resolutions of differences and disputes through dialogues and inclusive consultations reiterating that the principle of African solutions to African problems should continue to serve as the basis for conflict resolutions.

Without divulging much details, the Declaration also recalled national positions concerning the conflict ‘in and around Ukraine’ as expressed at the appropriate fora, including the UNSC and UNGA and noting with appreciation relevant proposals of mediation and good offices aimed at peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, including the African Leaders Peace Mission.

The Johannesburg BRICS Declaration also expressed strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations whenever, whatever and whoever committed. It also called for among other things  prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and of its weaponisation.

And while emphasising the formidable potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) for growth and development, it recognised the existing and emerging possibilities they bring for criminal activities and threats.

Some political observers see BRICS not as an alternative arrangement but an additional system for the countries in the global South. A section of the friends of the BRICS made it clear that their association with the bloc should not necessarily be seen as being an ant west stance but rather as a way of exercising the right to choose whom to cooperate with.

Majority welcomed the decision to expand the membership bloc from the original five represented by the acronym BRICS. Despite the expansion, it was later clarified that the acronym based on the first alphabet of the original five members will remain. Coincidentally, the currencies of the original members start with the letter ‘R’ (Brazil-Real, Russia-Ruble, India-Rupees, China-Renminbi, and South Africa-Rand) prompting some to jokingly refer to the group as the ‘R-Connection’.

All in all, the XV BRICS Summit was a resounding success and an important decision for the expansion of bloc membership has been reached. This is described as a game changer for the future of the group and the global south in general. Most still recall it was also in South Africa during the 2013 BRICS Summit that the decision to establish New Development Bank (NDB) was also reached.

Tanzania’s position and expectations in the bloc was made very clear by President Samia when she quite appropriately summed up that BRICS offers a possibility of coming up with a more equitable, balanced and fair international economic order that has thus remained unattainable and elusive aspiration.

And for Tanzania, which is well-known worldwide for being a staunch member of the Non-Alignment Movement and the Champion of the South-to-South Cooperation, Tanzania’s views on the BRICS as thoughtfully outlined by the Tanzania’s President, clearly reflect the country’s well thought out interests.

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