In a bid to harness economic and trade advantages, experts in Kenya are urging the country’s new administration to consider joining BRICS, the bloc of emerging economies.
The upcoming 15th summit of BRICS, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August. With these five countries accounting for over 40 percent of the world’s population and a quarter of global GDP, approximately 19 nations have reportedly expressed their interest in joining the group.
X.N. Iraki, an economist at the University of Nairobi, emphasized that Kenya, as a prominent economy in East Africa, should contemplate BRICS membership to foster trade and economic prosperity. Iraki highlighted the examples set by Algeria and Egypt, urging Kenya to follow suit and apply for BRICS membership to gain better market access for its agricultural products.
Furthermore, Iraki stressed the need for Africa to promote intra-African trade by utilizing local currencies. He pointed out that Kenya, like other African nations, has been hindered by its dependence on the US dollar, which restricts trade during dollar shortages. Joining BRICS, according to Iraki, would alleviate the challenges posed by the US dollar and provide vital economic opportunities for not just Kenya but the entire East African region.
Fred Ogola, an economist and governance expert formerly associated with Strathmore University in Nairobi, emphasized that unlike some Western blocs, BRICS is more inclusive and politically neutral. He highlighted the increasing influence of BRICS in global trade, projecting that by 2030, the bloc will control 50 percent of all global trade.
Ogola also mentioned BRICS’ non-interference in the sovereignty of member states as a significant factor that may attract African countries and other developing economies to join, in contrast to the perceived interference by the West.
According to a 2022 economic data survey from the African Development Bank, BRICS has become Africa’s largest trading partner, with trade expected to exceed $500 billion by 2030, with China accounting for 60 percent of the volume. BRICS countries are also making significant investments in Africa, particularly in the manufacturing and service sectors. In terms of foreign direct investment, BRICS nations have strengthened their presence on the continent, surpassing traditional partners such as the US and Europe.
Ogola expressed his belief that Kenya, by partnering with BRICS, could leverage the technological skills and expertise of member states to drive industrial growth and overcome historical imbalances that have disadvantaged African states under initiatives like the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
Antony Kiptoo, a student of international relations at the University of Nairobi, supported the notion of Kenya joining BRICS, emphasizing the importance of strengthening global partnerships and fostering economic growth. Kiptoo highlighted the potential for enhanced cooperation in agriculture, trade, and security, envisioning a future of shared prosperity and opportunities.
Egypt had formally applied to join the BRICS economic group, as confirmed by the Russian ambassador to Cairo, Georgy Borisenko. Egypt’s interest in joining BRICS is driven by its focus on alternative currencies for trade, which is one of the initiatives currently embraced by the bloc.
BRICS, comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, represents approximately 30 percent of the global economy, 26 percent of the world’s land area, and 43 percent of the global population. Additionally, BRICS member states established the New Development Bank with a capital of $100 billion to finance infrastructure projects and sustainable development in member states, emerging market economies, and other developing countries.
Egypt’s inclusion as a new member in the BRICS bloc follows the acceptance of the country as a member of the New Development Bank, announced during the BRICS leaders’ summit in December 2021. Prior to Egypt, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay had also joined the bloc in September 2021.
As the possibility of expanding BRICS membership gains traction, the potential for Kenya and other nations to leverage this economic bloc for their growth and development remains a topic of keen interest.
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