South Africa’s Ramaphosa voices support for BRICS group expansion

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed support for an expansion of the BRICS group of emerging market powers, which will gather for its annual summit in Johannesburg this week.

“An expanded BRICS will represent a diverse group of nations which share a common desire to have a more balanced world order,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday.

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The summit will be attended by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and more than 30 African heads of state, as well as others from the Global South.

The leaders of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are due to hold three days of talks starting August 22, with a possible expansion high on the agenda. More than 20 nations have formally applied to join, Ramaphosa said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, in an op-ed published in several South African media outlets on Monday, said his country and South Africa, as “natural members of the Global South, should push for developing countries to have more sway in international affairs.”

India, however, wants the process to be gradual, and is concerned the group would become a mouthpiece for China — with which the country is opposed on a number of major issues.

“We will urge the international community to refocus on development issues, promote a greater role by the BRICS cooperation mechanism in global governance, and make the voice of BRICS stronger,” Xi said.

Formed officially in 2009-10, BRICS has struggled to have the kind of geopolitical influence that matches its collective economic reach. The bloc’s current members represent more than 42 percent of the world’s population and account for 23 percent of global gross domestic product and 18 percent of trade.

Ramaphosa reiterated that South Africa’s foreign policy will be driven by its national interest and that it favors a negotiated settlement to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other conflicts.

“While some of our detractors prefer overt support for their political and ideological choices, we will not be drawn into a contest between global powers,” he said. “Our country strives to work with all countries for global peace and development.”

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