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BRICS Courting Africa: Nigeria Bids to Join Bloc in Pivotal Shift

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The winds of change are gusting through the corridors of global power. As the BRICS alliance of leading developing economies ramps up efforts to bypass dollar dominance and forge closer South-South ties, Africa stands poised to shape a new era of multipolarity.

The sleeping giant Nigeria’s announcement that it seeks BRICS membership underscores the bloc’s growing magnetism. BRICS expansion coincides with accelerating trade and investment flows between China and Africa that are reshaping economic relations. Meanwhile, initiatives to conduct bilateral trade in local currencies signal reduced dependence on the dollar.

Africa’s flagship nation Nigeria aims to jump on the realigning BRICS train, amplifying its voice and bringing immense weight to the bloc. With burgeoning commercial links and alliances molding new networks of Global South cooperation, the dominance of Western institutions faces a grave challenge.

From currency swap lines to multibillion-dollar Chinese infrastructure projects, the scaffolding for an emerging post-dollar financial order is under rapid construction. As leading developing nations set the multipolar agenda, Africa has an unprecedented opportunity to chart a more independent course.

The future beckons Africa to selectively integrate into the evolving BRICS-centered economic system while also capitalizing on renewed EU overtures. By leveraging South partnerships and a rebalancing global landscape, the continent can expedite its development visions.

These shifting dynamics promise to erode the insidious asymmetries of dollar dependency and unipolarity. The 21st century is shaping up to be an African century. Its fortunes will be defined by how strategically it engages with ascendant Southern partners like the BRICS while retaining autonomy. The slumbering giant is awakening.

Nigeria’s plan to join the BRICS

Nigeria’s announcement that it intends to seek full membership in the BRICS organization represents a monumental development. As Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria would bring substantial heft and influence into the bloc. This potential expansion underscores the growing prominence and attractiveness of BRICS as a powerful voice for emerging economies across the Global South.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s enthusiasm for joining BRICS is driven by pragmatic national interests. Association with leading powers like China, India and Russia offers Nigeria alternate sources of investment, security partnerships and market access to help fulfill its domestic development objectives. This diversification reduces over-reliance on the West.

BRICS presents Nigeria opportunities for technical expertise and critical financing to build industrial capacity and 21st century infrastructure. Projects like the Mambila hydroelectric dam financed by China will provide a literal engine for economic growth. Russia also brings defense sector cooperation.

As a major oil exporter, joining BRICS also gives Nigeria greater sway in energy geopolitics and OPEC+ deliberations. Collective efforts to conduct more trade in national currencies aligns with the priorities of Nigeria’s central bank. Strengthening financial self-reliance and optionality is attractive.

The symbolic value of joining BRICS should not be underestimated either. It signals Nigeria’s desire to shape global affairs as part of the ‘Global South’ rather than meekly follow the Western dominated order. A realignment towards multipolarity benefits African states like Nigeria that have long held peripheral status in international institutions.

More broadly, BRICS expansion to include influential regional powers like Nigeria and Argentina burnishes the bloc’s credentials as the prime alternative alliance to the G7. It also further decentralizes economic weight away from a singular dependence on China and India. This benefits BRICS.

For Nigeria, BRICS membership would increase its prestige and bolster its regional leadership claims. It would gain a seat at an increasingly important geopolitical table. Shared interests across counterterrorism, maritime security, technology cooperation and reforming global governance create space for Nigeria to carve out an important niche role within BRICS.

Joining BRICS also signals that leading African states believe the bloc provides the best vehicle for advancing the continent’s growth and development imperatives. It serves notice that African nations will exercise strategic autonomy in pursuing partnerships rather than just acquiesce to Western dictates.

Both Nigeria and BRICS stand to gain tremendously from this proposed expansion. It promises to significantly reshape geopolitical alignments. With Nigeria on board, BRICS would incorporate regional heavyweights from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eurasia – undeniably making it the voice of the Global South.

This is why Nigeria’s aspirations should be enthusiastically embraced. BRICS has shown through its pragmatism, flexibility and openness to expansion that this alliance is no longer just an acronym, but represents the future. Nigeria becoming a full member would be another powerful step towards a truly multipolar order. Its diplomatic heft and economic might will make BRICS more formidable and representative.

For emerging economies seeking equitable growth and development, BRICS presents the optimal platform for securing their interests while projecting influence. Nigeria joining BRICS both benefits from and also accelerates the bloc’s rise as the prime counterweight to traditionally dominant Western institutions. It signals unmistakably that cooperation among the Global South is essential to dismantling hegemonic impediments.

A rebalancing is already underway, as BRICS cooperation expands across energy, security, technology and finance. Bringing Africa’s powerhouse Nigeria formally into the bloc as a full member caps a momentous year of growth for BRICS and marks a new era. The outlines of a new multipolar order are coming into view, to the benefit of developed and developing states alike.

With judicious balancing, Africa can leverage BRICS partnerships to erect new architectures optimizing autonomy and equitable growth.

The gradual but determined efforts by leading BRICS members like China, Russia, India and South Africa to move away from dollar dominance in international trade and transactions is creating openings for African nations to chart a new course reducing dependence on the dollar. Many African states have long been marginalized from global financial systems centered around Western currencies. The rise of the BRICS bloc presents opportunities to participate in an emerging multipolar economic order not wholly under Western control.

For decades, the disproportionate power conferred on the United States by the primacy of the dollar has enabled it to wield outsized influence over African economies through Periodic control of the IMF and World Bank. But reliance on these Western-led institutions has often come with painful strictures and policy dictates crystallizing neo-colonial relations. Dollar dominance gives Washington an unchecked ability to freeze African assets and block transfers, constraining sovereign actions.

The BRICS emphasis on conducting bilateral trade in national currencies offers African nations valuable alternatives free from dollar hegemony. Settlements in renminbi, rupees or rubles avoid the risk of politically motivated restrictions or sanctions imposed on dollar transactions. This promise of “equal” partnerships appeals strongly to African leaders. Trading more with BRICS in local currencies means less exposure to the whims of US foreign policy.

The BRICS have backed initiatives like currency swap lines and settlement frameworks specifically to bypass the dollar and enable financial dealings using alternative currencies. The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and BRICS New Development Bank also furnish avenues for major investments not dependent on dollar-centric Western lenders. This decentralization of global finance promises to give African nations more flexibility.

Furthermore, greater use of national currencies for trade settlements expands the influence of BRICS partners in African economies. With trade invoicing and central bank reserves less beholden to the dollar, the importance of the renminbi or rupee grows. This aligns with the BRICS goal of shaping a new monetary order where non-Western currencies play a prominent role commensurate with economic weight.

While ditching the dollar has risks, its dominance was never preordained and had political roots. Alternatives are viable if the collective will exist. For Africa, reduced exposure to the weaponization of the dollar-based system holds significant appeal. This is fertile ground for BRICS ambitions.

Rapprochement between Africa and the BRICS builds upon shared mistrust of Western hegemony and billion-dollar investments with “no strings attached”. South Africa’s membership can help bridge relations with non-BRICS African nations. The promise of fairer partnerships tied to mutually beneficial local currency trade and investment is compelling.

Of course, skepticism persists – will dependence just shift from the West to China? But with African agency growing and multiple options on the table, the BRICS proposition has potency. The global South is rising, and BRICS aims to develop financial architectures to support its advancement. As dominant powers weaponize systems like SWIFT to exert influence, alternatives become imperative.

If executed strategically, reduced exposure to the dollar can be liberating. Local currency settlement networks among Southern partners could churn out new transactions and reserve currencies like the rand or naira. The trajectory is promising.

For decades, the enforced centrality of the US dollar has been a key instrument reinforcing global hierarchies and asymmetries. Its absence will reshape dynamics, curtailing a major source of leverage long employed to subjugate the developing world. The BRICS vision heralds possibilities to circumvent this stranglehold.

The birth of alternative financial ecosystems will inevitably be turbulent. But the dying gasps of dollar dominance also promise rejuvenation as the Global South effects change through new networks built on sovereignty and mutual gain. This realignment may define the 21st century. Visionaries across Africa see potential to chart a new course unencumbered by the insidious leverage of dollar dependency.

While reshaping the international monetary order holds enormous promise, realizing this vision requires overcoming significant challenges. As the BRICS-led shift away from the dollar takes root, African nations must deftly navigate the transition. While forging ahead with local currency settlements and alternative financial networks, prudent policymaking can mitigate turbulence. This demands striking a balance between accelerating decoupling from the old order and maintaining stability.

On the commercial front, Africa is also actively developing closer South-South ties as the gravity of global trade shifts. China’s position as Africa’s largest trading partner is emblematic of this realignment.

China-Africa Cooperation

China’s trade with Africa reaching $282.92 billion in 2023 highlights the deepening economic ties between China as a leading BRICS nation and the African continent. This positions China as Africa’s largest trading partner, surpassing the European Union. While the year-on-year increase was modest at 1.5%, the steady expansion of China-Africa trade over the past two decades reflects a fundamental shift in Africa’s global economic relations.

China and Africa

The rise of China has provided African countries opportunities to diversify their external economic partnerships beyond the West. China’s robust growth and demand for resources has created a vast export market for African economies. Chinese investment in building much-needed infrastructure on the continent is also enabling intra-regional trade. This trade momentum between China and Africa reinforces South-South cooperation championed by the BRICS bloc.

From the African perspective, developing strong economic ties with China allows the continent to reduce the imbalance of its external trade being overwhelmingly dependent on Western European economies. It also gives African nations leverage to negotiate fairer trade terms with the EU, which previously dominated trade flows. Engagement with China and other emerging economies aligns with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s goals of expanding intra-regional trade.

For China, its growing trade with Africa provides access to vital commodities and resources to sustain its industrial expansion. China secures a consistent supply of crude oil, minerals and agricultural goods from economies across the continent. African demographics and fast growing middle class consumer markets offer major opportunities for Chinese exporters as well.

However, significant imbalances remain in China’s trade relations with Africa. There is an over-reliance on commodities on the export side while imports are tilted towards Chinese value-added products and manufactured goods. Addressing this asymmetry will be crucial for trade ties to support Africa’s advancement. Local processing of resources before export to China should be encouraged to boost gains for African economies.

Meanwhile, Chinese investment through BRI facilitates African industrialization and skills transfer. As China expedites relocation of lower value manufacturing away from home, Africa can position itself as an attractive destination leveraging its labor cost advantage. With appropriate policies, African nations can maximize gains from China’s move up the industry value chain.

Deeper BRICS ties amplify these opportunities. South Africa’s membership enables it to share best practices in maximizing benefits from China and BRICS engagement. The New Development Bank also furnishes a valuable avenue for major infrastructure investment without the strings attached to Western aid.

Trade with China also gives African states reduced exposure to politicization risks associated with economic reliance on the West. In contrast, China adheres to a strict policy of non-interference in internal affairs of partner states. While some express concerns over Chinese influence, commercial dealings are widely seen as pragmatic and interest driven rather than ideological.

To further enhance the benefit, African nations must improve regulatory oversight of Chinese projects to boost employment and skills development of locals. Strategically negotiated trade and investment agreements can cement technology transfer and industrialization prospects. Regional blocs also enhance Africa’s leverage in forging win-win BRICS commercial ties.

The growth of China-Africa trade and the shifting gravity towards the South hold much promise. With farsighted and assertive policies, African states can further leverage these emerging dynamics to expedite their development visions. The future of Africa will undoubtedly be shaped by how effectively it engages with its partners in the South.

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