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Euro-BRICS and Africa-BRICS agendas to increase BRICS global influence [1]

Prof. Alexander Zhebit, PhD,

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil

             The impressive facts about the BRICS’ countries GDPs, territories, populations and rates of growth during the last decade or so have been publicized and awed throughout the world community. The so-called emerging giant countries would become leading world economies by 2050 or most probably much earlier than that. What truly must be said is that a huge part of this success is owed to by the People’s Republic of China growth and economic, technological and commercial advance, though some uneven success in growth was also remarkable in India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa through all these years. Since the beginning of the first decade of this century these giant emerging economies were observed as separate entities with some comparable macroindicators that showed their quite sustainable perspective progress towards economic growth and eventual prosperity in some near future. Their transformation into a cohesive group of purpose-oriented powers in 2009 (First BRIC Group Summit in Yekaterinburg) changed the perception of giant emerging powers acting on their own. A new body of alternative world governance came to the scene of world politics to challenge the more than half a century old structures of power and decision making, first, in financial and monetary issues and,  later on, in global and regional governance initiatives. The BRICS started to be viewed as a politically motivated group of countries, whose policies should be coordinated in a meaningful and duly oriented manner, according the group’s declared purposes and principles[2]/.

In order to be more influential and politically more effective the BRICS should use its huge natural endowment among the established international governance bodies, as the World Bank, OMC, OECD, as well as among the developed and developing countries institutions, like the European Union, free trade agreements, UNCTAD and others. Some successful entries into the ten most influential members of the IMF and into the G-20 are already important breakthroughs, but more needs to be done for the BRICS to be system-influencing states or  system-affecting states[3].

The first measure that should be taken by the BRICS to strengthen its influencing capability on world governance is to start a process of building a Euro-BRICS partnership deals with a mutual acceptance and an issue overlapping between the consolidated and mature international institutions, such as the European Union, and the newly born and innovative networks, such as the BRICS, with the purpose of adaptation to a changing world governance.

The European Union is a natural and an active partner for the BRICS in trade and in global diplomacy. Formed in 1992, the European Union is a post-Cold War construction built as an alternative governance structure for Europe facing globalization. It fits very well la grandeur of the BRICS, in terms of population, economy, trade, minus rapid growth rates, even if we concede that the BRICS growth rates have been going down.

The foreign policy of the European Union was and has been based on a different set of principles than those of the post-World War II global institutions. Its policies have anti- and post-colonial presumptions, bordering with the BRICS’ South-South paradigm, as the European Union faced the problem of transitional economies of the Central and Eastern Europe.

The European Union is nowadays an important partner in solving global and regional problems. Without it, no solutions to developmental challenges, no conflict resolution, no trade promotion, no finance reform or a climate change recovery and many other global issues are attainable, no matter what the degree of financial crisis it has been undergoing. Crisis or no crisis, the European Union is a major economic, financial, technological and commercial player in the world politics.

That is why alternative transgovernmental networks combine very well with the European Union, which is, speaking very broadly, is an intergovernmental network of national states. Under these circumstances, its strategic partnership with the BRICS seen as a transnational neofunctionalism and should be faced as a challenge for the BRICS in its venue to gain more weight and authority in the world governance.

It should be stressed that the inter-structural partnership construction has to be based on and driven by the existing diplomatic and political framework and through the use of particular political instruments, such as the European strategic relationships.

One should observe that the existing partnerships of the European Union with the BRICS countries and other emerging countries have already formed a significant grid of bilateral negotiating platforms in international relations. If they are smart grids or talking shops, it does not matter. They were invented for good purposes, so they must be used.  Among the ten strategic partnership agreements of the European Union (with Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, United States), five are with the BRICS countries.

Second, the South-South potential of the intra-BRICS should be fully used on those concrete projects that have already paved the way for the IBSA countries and have been so artfully presented at the Durban BRICS summit and a Retreat together with African leaders under the theme “Unlocking Africa’s potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure”. Why Africa?

Africa will defy the global economic slowdown in 2013, with most countries predicted to post much stronger growth than the global average, according to the UN economic annual report, World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013.

Despite the global slowdown, Africa’s economic growth rate (excluding Libya) will see a visible rebound to 4.5 per cent in 2013 compared to 3.4 per cent in 2012. The upward trend is expected to continue in 2014, with growth reaching 5.0 per cent.

The report said the key factors underpinning Africa’s strong growth prospects include:

a)     solid growth in oil-exporting countries supported by increased oil production and continued high prices,

b)    increased fiscal expenditure, especially on infrastructure.

WESP says Africa’s increasing trade and investment ties with emerging and developing economies are likely to mitigate the impact of negative shocks emanating from the recession in Europe[4].

Increasing diversification into services, telecommunication, construction and other non-primary commodity sectors, including manufacturing, also contribute to Africa’s positive growth outlook in the medium term.

The African population is rapidly growing. More than in any other continent. By the beginning of the XXII century it will increase by 2,5 billion people, while in Asia the increase will be only by 432 millions, in Northern America, by 182 millions, in Latin America, by 97 millions and there will be a decrease of population in Europe, by 63 millions[5].

The European Union and the BRICS may have cross activities in Africa because of the existing EU programs for Africa.

The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) strategic orientations, adopted in Lisbon Summit on December 2007, are being implemented on a day to day basis through Action Plans which have reinforced the intercontinental dialogue and led to concrete action in key areas of common concern. The two successive action plans are structured around eight thematic areas:

1. Peace and Security
2. Democratic Governance and Human Rights
3. Regional Economic Integration, Trade and Infrastructure
4. Millennium Development Goals
5. Climate Change
6. Energy
7. Migration, Mobility and Employment
8. Science, Information Society and Space

Its Action Plan 2011-2013 for Energy may serve as a building block for Euro BRICS cooperation and not rivalry in Africa:

  • Increased access to modern and sustainable energy services in Africa, focusing on sustainable models: to provide energy for basic services (health, education, water, communication); to power productive activities; and to provide safe and sustainable energy services to households.
  • Increased use of natural gas in Africa, as well as African gas exports to Europe, by building natural gas infrastructure, notably to bring currently flared gas to market.
  • Increased use of renewable energy in Africa: by building new and/or rehabilitating existing hydro-power, wind power and solar energy facilities and other renewable facilities, such as geothermal and modern biomass.
  • Improved energy efficiency in Africa in all sectors, starting with the electricity sector, in support of Africa’s continental, regional and sectoral targets[6].

The BRICS cooperation with Africa is very extensive too, serving to transform the African agenda into a real business for the BRICS.

  • Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) – 2000;
  • Fórum para a Cooperação Econômica e Comercial entre a China e os Países de Língua Portuguesa (Fórum de Macau) – 2003;
  • India – Brazil- South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) – 2003;
  • New Asian – African Strategic Partnership – 2005;
  • Africa – South America Strategic Partnership (ASA) – 2006;
  • Índia – Africa Forum – 2008.


A cooperation for the sake of development is burgeoning topic of intra-BRICS studies.[7]

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an African Union strategic framework for pan-African socio-economic development has its own program of development which should be supported by the BRICS.

Priority areas for NEPAD’s energy program include energy infrastructure development in Africa up to 2040 known as PIDA, bio energy development for energy and food security, energy accessibility through renewable energy solutions, development of the continent nuclear power resources , energy efficiency , regional energy market and capacity development at national and regional levels. The program also supports development of power generation from natural gases, coal bed methane and geothermal power in the Rift Valley. The program promotes the development of regional and continental energy policy frameworks and strategies, development of energy regulatory systems and realistic tariff that attracts private investment in the energy sector[8].

There is a Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), designed to develop a vision and strategic framework for the development of regional and continental infrastructure (Energy, Transport, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Trans-boundary Water Resources)[9].

According to the final document of 4th Euro-BRICS Seminar «Towards a renovated global governance – Peace, Energy, Currencies, Trade: the Euro-BRICS partnership, a condition to a non-conflictual cooperation between world blocks», “ … the participants agreed on the need for a EU-BRICS cooperation platform. Other than competitors for resources, a joint initiative would prove to be the path to sustainability, stability and democratic progress. The Durban Declaration following the BRICS summit in April of 2013 has pushed for an Africanization of the BRICS Agenda. The participants urged the EU to support this initiative, as the commodities super-cycle reaches its end (shale-gas revolution?) it will be vital to support African nations with foreign direct investment (development) rather than overseas development assistance (aid). This change in rationale would truly recognize Africa not as a pumping station for resources but as a partner in the world of the 21st century”[10].

On a new model of global governance, the document says the following: “These few practical steps allow one to see that the Euro-BRICS partnership can provide a space for combined decision-making freedom in a huge area for truly effective action for the construction of a new framework of global governance. The Euro-BRICS aren’t the whole world but they make up a not-insignificant part by their demographic numbers, their close fit with each other, their diversity, their common interests and destiny, the areas for exchange and the flows they represent – it’s not the BRICS alone and even less so the Eurozone alone. The Euro-BRICS can therefore be the laboratory of a new global governance, quickly transforming decisions into action which the institutions of the 20th century are no longer capable of doing-establishing themselves solely by the effectiveness of their solutions in contrast to the do-nothing attitude prevailing elsewhere. A matrix of this type is able to lead the world towards a model of modern governance, supple, capable of integrating the vast diversity of national and supranational entities which have covered the world these last few decades, a decentralized model running on the basis of all these entities being connected with each other ad hoc via simple secretariats or agile authorities coordinating a particular subject, a multi-faceted networking of all of the new pillars of today’s world.”[11]

Real challenges, among which a EuroBRICS agenda and a African agenda, as most challenging and practical ones, will lead the BRICS to transforming itself into a real alternative world governance body, as it happened to declare itself when it was born. The group as an alternative to the existing governance institutions will emerge as a result of its concerted action to face and overcome challenges to its purpose and its substance. Thus, testing the BRICS ability to perform as a meaningful body of governance and not just a group of giant powers with diversified or even conflicting policy outlooks, is a means to know if the BRICS is capable to harness and lead global politics. What these challenges are and where and how they should be met depends on the issues and the policies through which the BRICS will position itself in the world politics today.


[1] Based on the presentation at the International Symposium “The BRICS and their social, political and cultural challenges on the national and international levels”. The ANPOCS’ 37th Annual Meeting, September 23-27, 2013, Águas de Lindoia, SP, Brazil.

[2] “12. We underline our support for a more democratic and just multi-polar world order based on the rule of international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all states… 15. … The dialogue and cooperation of the BRIC countries is conducive not only to serving common interests of emerging market economies and developing countries, but also to building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity.” (Joint Statement of the BRIC Countries’ Leaders.June16,2009,Yekaterinburg)Availableat: http://archive.kremlin.ru/eng/text/docs/2009/06/217963.shtml  Access on: September, 15, 2013. “2. We underline our support for a multipolar, equitable and democratic world order, based on international law, equality, mutual respect, cooperation, coordinated action and collective decision-making of all States. 4. … we reaffirm the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, with a view to making it more effective, efficient and representative, so that it can deal with today’s global challenges more effectively.” (2nd BRIC Summit of Heads of State and Government Joint Statement Brasília, April 15, 2010) Available at:  http://www.brics.utoronto.ca/docs/100415-leaders.html Access on: September, 15, 2013. “7. We share the view that the world is undergoing far-reaching, complex and profound changes, marked by the strengthening of multipolarity, economic globalization and increasing interdependence. While facing the evolving global environment and a multitude of global threats and challenges, the international community should join hands to strengthen cooperation for common development. Based on universally recognized norms of international law and in a spirit of mutual respect and collective decision making, global economic governance should be strengthened, democracy in international relations should be promoted, and the voice of emerging and developing countries in international affairs should be enhanced.” (Full text of Sanya Declaration of the BRICS Leaders Meeting) Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/chin a/2011-04/14/c_13829453_2.htm Access on: September, 15, 2013. “3. BRICS is a platform for dialogue and cooperation amongst countries that represent 43% of the world’s population, for the promotion of peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world. Coming, as we do, from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, the transcontinental dimension of our interaction adds to its value and significance. 4. We envision a future marked by global peace, economic and social progress and enlightened scientific temper. We stand ready to work with others, developed and developing countries together, on the basis of universally recognized norms of international law and multilateral decision making, to deal with the challenges and the opportunities before the world today. Strengthened representation of emerging and developing countries in the institutions of global governance will enhance their effectiveness in achieving this objective.” (Fourth BRICS Summit – Delhi Declaration) Available at: http://pmindia.nic.in/press-details.php?nodeid=1404 Access on: September, 15, 2013. “1… Our discussions reflected our growing intra-BRICS solidarity as well as our shared goal to contribute positively to global peace, stability, development and cooperation. We also considered our role in the international system as based on an inclusive approach of shared solidarity and cooperation towards all nations and peoples. 2. …We aim at progressively developing BRICS into a full-fledged mechanism of current and long-term coordination on a wide range of key issues of the world economy and politics.” (5th BRICS Summit – eThekwini Declaration and Action Plan).  Available at:  http://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/21482  Access on: September, 15, 2013

[3] KEOHANE, Robert. Review: Lilliputians’ Dilemmas: Small States in International Politics. International Organization, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1969), p. 295-296.

[4] World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013. UN report: Africa’s economy rebounding despite global downturn. Available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/wesp/index.shtml Access on January, 11, 2013

[5] Source: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011): World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. New York



[6]  Joint Africa EU Strategy Action Plan 2011-2013. Available at: http://europafrica.net/jointstrategy/ Access on September, 17, 2013

[7] BRICS i Afrika: sotrudnitchestvo v tseliakh razvitia. Moskva: RUDN, 2013.

[8] NEPAD Energy Program Available at: http://www.nepad.org/regionalintegrationandinfrastructure/energy Access on September, 17, 2013

[9] Program Infrastructure Development for Africa (PIDA)

Available at: http://pages.au.int/infosoc/pages/program-infrastructure-development-africa-pida Access on September, 17, 2013

[10]Euro-BRICS PROCESS 4th Euro-BRICS Seminar «Towards a renovated global governance – Peace, Energy, Currencies, Trade: the Euro-BRICS partnership, a condition to a non-conflictual cooperation between world blocks» Moscow (MGIMO), May 23-24, 2013, p. 6. Available at: http://www.europe2020.org/IMG/pdf/Report_4th_Euro-BRICS_seminar_Moscow_May_2013_EN.pdf Access on September, 16, 2013

[11] Ibidem, p. 8.