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Symbolism over substance for South Africa as Ramaphosa announces BRICS 3.0


Johannesburg delivered a level of drama befitting of the occasion. But beyond the shared desire for reformed global economic governance, it’s unclear how the expanded group will benefit South African citizens.

South Africa’s Police Minister, Bheki Cele, compared hosting BRICS to the World Cup in 2010 – perhaps the last time the country felt like it was the centre of the world’s attention. Fighter jets screamed over the city at regular intervals as if to remind its residents that important matters were taking place.

The message that BRICS represents 40 per cent of the world’s population and a growing share of its GDP was echoed across marketing banners at the airport and venue, and across media. These statistics seem to serve as the central justification for why the group exists, and why South Africa would want to be a part of it.

But despite the fanfare and the impressive potential of the economies involved, BRICS membership still delivers few specific economic benefits for South Africa, remaining primarily a forum for its geopolitical ambition.

And in a newly-expanded BRICS, South Africa will need to work with new partners and engage in ‘group diplomacy’ to ensure its position is strengthened and not diluted.

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