BRICS Plus: vast opportunities to developing countries

Eric Biegon China Plus Published: 2017-09-25 21:31:25
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By Eric Biegon 

The Chinese government has time and again affirmed its steadfastness towards a new world order. This was again the case during the recently concluded BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, Fujian province.

As a host, Chinese President Xi Jinping used the occasion to rally the traditional five members of the bloc to give room for opening out of the framework to accommodate Emerging Markets and Developing Countries (EMDCs) under a new approach christened “BRICS plus.”Simply put, the concept is open to all.

The BRICS Plus cooperation according to the Chinese leader will promote exchanges of good practices and experiences on development and facilitate market inter-linkages as well as infrastructure and financial integration to achieve interconnected development.

“We shall strive towards broad partnerships with EMDCs and in this context, we will pursue equal-footed, and flexible practices and initiatives for dialogue and cooperation with non-BRICS countries.” He said. 

The New Development Bank officially opens Africa Regional Center in Johannesburg on 17 August 2017. [Photo:]

The New Development Bank officially opens Africa Regional Center in Johannesburg on 17 August 2017. [Photo:]

Unlike previously where South Africa has been the sole representative from Africa at the summit, Guinea and Egypt were in attendance as special guests this year.  Kenya was also invited to grace the summit for the first time. Through this gesture, it is evident that the forum is gravitating towards building a platform with developing countries placed at the core.

Sentiments made by Xi in this regard cannot be overstated. The Chinese leader emphasized that China and Africa are a community of shared future and common interests, which have gone through thick and thin together, even as he went ahead to pledge continued support to the continent.

"Regardless of changes in the international situation, China will unswervingly work with Africa for win-win cooperation and common development, and resolutely support peace and development in Africa. China supports Africa's capacity building in peace-keeping."He said.

Views made by the former Director of the Institute of World Economy, Prof. Chen Fengying, reinforce the motive behind the move by China to invite additional African countries. Speaking before the opening of the summit, Prof Chen disclosed that the BRICS bloc is establishing institutions that will place their focus on Africa and the Latin world.  One such institution is the New Development Bank, NDB. 

 “There are many development banks in the world today, the largest being the World Bank. But the New Development Bank owned by BRICS is the only one with developing countries as its backbone,” Said Prof. Chen.

Project Financing

This endeavor is becoming a reality in the continent following the recent launch of the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank in South Africa.

South African president Jacob Zuma lauded the project saying the establishment of the ARC demonstrates the commitment by BRICS members towards providing access to capital for infrastructure projects in Africa and other developing countries.

“Our view is that the New Development Bank must be more welcoming to emerging and developing markets and to Africa in particular, and assist us in taking forward our developmental agenda.” Zuma charged.

In fact what is more appealing about this initiative is the ease of access to funds for development of projects. From the onset, it is clearly stipulated that with BRICS Plus, developing countries must not be members of the bloc in order to benefit from financial institutions aligned to it. On condition that a nation is a respected member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, she can source for funds from NDB and the Asian Infrastructural Investment Bank (AIIB), for its projects needs.  

Speaking at the summit, Zuma left no doubt that Africa will continue following the example of China in its bid to attain the much sought-after robust economic conditions. In his opinion, Sino-Africa relations must transition to sectoral cooperation.

“We look forward to seeing progress in the funding of infrastructure investment in energy, transport, water and other productive sectors which currently impedes our competitiveness in the broader globallandscape.” He said.

China’s foreign ministry says BRICS plus is one of Beijing’s most important contributions to the BRICS bloc, which represents evolution in the mechanism that calls for greater influence.

Peace and Security

The BRICS Plus framework, it appears, will cast its eyes more on international and regional peace and stability. In what is now known as the Xiamen Declaration, the bloc says it will stand firm in upholding a fair and equitable international order within the United Nations accord. 

“We will pursue joint efforts to address common traditional and non-traditional security challenges so as to build a brighter shared future for the global community.” Read part of the declaration. 

Such undertaking could not have come at a better time. This aspect of BRICS Plus regime is particularly welcome given that security challenges in Africa over the past few years have been enormous. It is no longer a secret that certain productive regions of the continent have witnessed semblance of instability emanating from constant attacks from criminal groupings bother local and international, leaving everything at a near standstill situation. 

The heinous terrorist acts perpetrated against humanity by the much dreaded Al Shabaab militia group in East Africa, the Boko Haram in West Africa and the Islamic State in parts of the North easily come to mind.

This complex security environment, to a large extent, has been vehemently injurious to the social, political and economic well-being of the continent. Many African countries have persistently experienced security problems such as armed groups, conflicts, and governance as well as crimes such as drugs and human trafficking. 

All these require appropriate response mechanisms from within and beyond the African borders. Another helping hand in this regard could be coming in the name of BRICS Plus and will be absolutely welcome. It thus looks a noble idea for the bloc to try and bring on board more African countries especially those seeking support in this regard. 

Kenya’s Example

In Africa, Kenya is perhaps another shining example of participation in international cooperation mechanisms. The fruits of such engagements are visible in the East African country. 

Under the Belt and Road framework, for instance, Kenya has benefited from modern roads, railway network and port expansion initiatives which are gradually easing movement of goods and addressing the challenge of decongestion respectively.  These initiatives, spearheaded by the Chinese government, are at a nascent stage yet a lot has been achieved within a short period of time. 

The developments have not only promoted trade and investments. Many Kenyan students and professionals are now flocking to China for various missions under the people to people exchange program. A major objective of this worthwhile undertaking is capacity building, which in turn helps promotion of development locally as the participating countries have become beneficiaries of skills development and technology transfer.  

During the Belt and Road forum held in May in Beijing, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said Africa stands a chance to regain some of the “missed opportunities of globalization, by playing an active role in the Chinese plan for an interconnected world.”

His Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping has always been optimistic about Africa’s prospects and he reiterated his desire for a deeper cooperation with the continent at the BRICS summit. Xi said a stronger partnership was needed in various sectors including marine economy, industrial production, culture, science and technology, health care and tourism.

Africa’s potential

African leaders at the summit reiterated that Africa remains a continent of great opportunity with lots of potential. Indeed, they hold the view that Africa is the current frontier for growth and prosperity and opportunities from an investment perspective are limitless.

They back up this argument using the latest data from the McKinsey& Company indicating that Africa’s household consumption and business spending are both growing strongly, offering companies a whopping 5.6 trillion US dollars opportunity by 2025. 

If the Xiamen declaration is anything to go by, then BRICS Plus presents enormous opportunities for stronger and more sustainable economies in Africa. The latest concept is being championed as one that strongly promotes globalization ideals while recognizing the vast and the untapped potential of the continent and other developing nations of the world. 

(Eric Biegon is a news reporter at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation)

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