Johannesberg August 24 2023: Leaders of the BRICS group of developing nations have invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates to join, in a move aimed at growing the clout of a bloc that has pledged to champion the "Global South".
Expansion could also pave the way for dozens of interested countries to seek admission to BRICS - currently Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - at a time when geopolitical polarisation is spurring efforts by Beijing and Moscow to forge it into a viable counterweight to the West.
The new candidate members were announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is hosting a summit of BRICS leaders.
"BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous," he said.
The new candidates will be formally admitted as members on Jan. 1, 2024. Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva left the door open to the possibility of admitting other new members in future.
"We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow," Ramaphosa said at a media briefing.
Lula said globalisation's promises had failed, adding that it was time to revitalise cooperation with developing countries as "there is a risk of nuclear war", an apparent allusion to growing tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.
United Arab Emirates' President Mohammed bin Zayed, whose country is already a member of the bloc's New Development Bank (NDB), said he appreciated the inclusion of his country as a new member.
"We look forward to a continued commitment of cooperation for the prosperity, dignity and benefit of all nations and people around the world," he posted on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
PLEDGE TO REBALANCE WORLD ORDER
The debate over enlargement has topped the agenda at the three-day summit taking place in Johannesburg. And while all BRICS members publicly expressed support for growing the bloc, there were divisions among the leaders over how much and how quickly.
Though home to about 40% of the world's population and a quarter of global gross domestic product, BRICS members' failure to settle on a coherent vision for the bloc has long left it punching below its weight as a global political and economic player.
"This membership expansion is historic," China's President Xi Jinping said in remarks following the announcement on enlargement. "It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries."
More than 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS, say South African officials, and 22 have formally asked to be admitted.
They represent a disparate pool of potential candidates motivated largely by a desire to level a global playing field many consider rigged against them.
They are attracted by BRICS' promise to rebalance world bodies dominated by the United States and other wealthy Western states.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the bloc's expansion should be an example to other global institutions founded in the 20th century that have become outdated.
"The expansion and modernization of BRICS is a message that all institutions in the world need to mould themselves according to changing times," he said.