Building with new BRICS

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Many of my longer term followers will know of my interest in the four “BRIC countries” (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which until recently involved regular opportunities for me to speak at large conferences and on TV, and also led to the organising of memorable study tours to exciting places with big plans for the future. In the early 2000s, the BRIC countries, along with continental Africa, represented the developing and emerging world of the future and, with their large populations and growing economies, it was easy to imagine a future world dominated by these four “Big Rapidly Industrialising Countries”.

It didn’t quite work out as planned. Only China has so far fulfilled the huge potential outlined in Jim O’Neill’s 2001 paper Building Better Global Economic BRICs and some commentators have even written off the whole BRIC concept as an investment idea promoted by clever marketing people. It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m not one of them!

The latest BRICS Leadership Summit (which has included the President of South Africa since 2011) will meet in Russia tomorrow for the twelth time and, with the US and Europe in turmoil from political upheaval and the global pandemic, it would not be fanciful to assume that a grand strategy may start to emerge from the developing world which will seek to exert more control and influence in the areas of most interest to them – climate change, healthcare, technology, innovation, sustainability and globalisation.

The theme this year will be “BRICS, a partnership for global stability, shared security and innovative growth”. The media is focusing on recent geo-political tensions which have seen Brazil and India drift towards Trump’s America over the past four years. My guess is that the areas that unite these five leaders are more important than those that divide them.

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