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Which Countries Are Interested in Joining BRICS?

BRICS Expansion: Who’s in the Lineup? One of the world’s newest economic alliances is gaining momentum as BRICS – comprised of original members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – boast of a potential 40 countries that are looking to join the conglomerate. With just their original members, BRICS already represents 41.5% of the…

BRICS Expansion: Who’s in the Lineup?

One of the world’s newest economic alliances is gaining momentum as BRICS – comprised of original members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – boast of a potential 40 countries that are looking to join the conglomerate. With just their original members, BRICS already represents 41.5% of the world's population. It has a higher GDP than the G7 (31.5% of the world's GDP compared to 30% as of 2023) and some are pegging the potential GDP of BRICS to be more than 50% by 2030.

With such economic muscle, it’s easy to see why countries are lining up to join. But how much sincerity is behind each bid, and what would it mean if they did join?

And perhaps more importantly, what would it be called?  The letters in BRICS represent each of the current countries, with the previous name being “BRIC” before South Africa joined in 2010, giving it the S at the end.

Depending on which countries jump on board, the acronym could change, with some countries offering letters more favorable to acronyming than others. At this point, BRICS would be in desperate need of another vowel if it hopes to spell out anything worthwhile, but the more generic BRICS+ is always a possibility and a favored term to refer to hypothetical expansion without knowing precisely which countries will be in the next incarnation of the alliance.

Let’s take a look at potential BRICS+ members here:

New 2024 BRICS+ Members

In August, BRICS countries held a summit in South Africa.  Several important updates came out of this meeting, and the bloc announced new members that would be admitted in 2024.  These six countries are:

Argentina

Argentina was another early applicant to BRICS once the bloc signaled it was considering expansion, applying in 2022. The country has announced that China supports its bid to join, with the support formalized at the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Even though Argentina’s motions to join BRICS will strain its relations with the West, the country is projected to continue with the process of joining. As the second-largest economy in South America next to Brazil, doing so would solidify the continent’s ties to BRICS. Update: In December 2023, newly-elected Argentine president Javier Milei canceled his country's entry into the BRICS alliance.

Egypt

Oil-rich Egypt is another Arab state looking to improve its economic standing in the world by joining BRICS. “Egypt has applied to join the BRICS group because one of the initiatives that BRICS is currently engaged in is the maximum transfer of trade to alternative currencies, whether national or the creation of some kind of joint currency. Egypt is very interested in this,” said Georgy Borizenko, Russian ambassador to Cairo in June 2023.

BRICS has considered launching its own currency as a contender for the dollar as the world standard, although the framework has not yet been outlined as to how that could happen. Even without that in consideration, Egypt joined the BRICS New Development Bank in February 2023, indicating that its interest in joining BRICS is multifold on the economic front.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia officially applied to join BRICS in June 2023. As part of its application, Ethiopia cited its history in helping to establish the United Nations and the African Union.

Joining BRICS, Ethiopia expresses, would help it progress toward its national interests. In other words, the country is angling all in toward becoming part of the bloc, and its strong diplomatic background made the country a shoe-in for an invite.

Iran

Increasingly positioned against Western interests in the geopolitical sphere, Iran’s formal expression of desire to join BRICS is not surprising. Possessing the second largest reserves of gas in the world, having Iran become part of BRICS is advantageous across the board for those involved due to the increased trade potential and the energy needs of the developing world.

With an economy of nearly $2 trillion, Iran’s membership in BRICS will bring impressive muscle to its financial brokering power.

Saudi Arabia

Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s bid to join BRICS comes with the hefty weight of an oil-based economy. Outside of the potential for oil trading, Saudi Arabia would benefit from having increased access to emerging markets. With BRICS representing around 41% of the world’s population, Saudi Arabia’s exports would have ample ground to take seed and blossom.

More directly, the Kingdom has expressed a desire to end Western hegemony, and joining BRICS would be a step toward that, it envisions. With the acceptance of Saudi Arabia into its membership, BRICS will be gaining one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

United Arab Emirates

The last of the Arab oil giants to make a formal commitment to BRICS, the UAE’s membership in BRICS will be a boon to the bloc thanks to the country’s significant trading muscle.   The UAE is an economic powerhouse in its region, ranking 4th in the oil-rich Middle East, giving it excellent strategic value for BRICS to enlist.

Friends of BRICS

To start with, a host of countries have already made their formal bid to join BRICS, each with their own motivations. Together, they’re informally known as the “Friends of BRICS”.

Algeria

Algeria was among the first countries to apply to join BRICS, submitting its application in November 2022. Since it did so, both China and Russia have expressed that they support Algeria joining the bloc. Notably, this is the first time an Arab country has created an alliance with Beijing. Algeria has a history of working with Russia as it was the first country in Africa to form an alliance with them in 2001.

In other words, the potential for Algeria to join BRICS looks very strong. Ranked 56 out of the world’s major economies, it isn’t a major powerhouse, but its diplomatic background in Africa brings credence to the bloc.

Bahrain

Bahrain is joining Algeria and three other Arab countries in a bid to join BRICS, having formally declared its intention to do so at a summit in South Africa in 2023.

Information on Bahrain’s individual motivations to join BRICS, beyond operating in tandem with its fellow oil-producing Arabian nations, is scarce. With that said, numerous reports confirm that the country is interested in moving forward. If it does, it means it will bring its legacy as a regional and global economic hub to the table.

Bangladesh

One of the more recent countries to formally express interest in joining BRICS is Bangladesh, which made its application in June 2023. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to seal the deal, which is notable since South Africa is currently the leader of BRICS.

Bangladesh’s foreign minister confirmed the declaration of interest, granting it further weight. Ranked 35th of the world’s major economies, it will lend to BRICS share of the global GDP.

Belarus

With its close proximity to Russia both geographically and geopolitically, it isn’t a surprise to find Belarus speaking up as an applicant for BRICS. "This decision was an absolutely logical step in the context of... expanding cooperation in multilateral formats with traditional partners and friendly states," the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said, according to a report by Russian news agency RIA in July 2023.

The statement, along with Belarus’s history, make it likely that the country is moving ahead with its membership request. With its GDP rising almost 20% over the last decade, and its productivity going up by a third, it would be a strong asset for the bloc.

Indonesia

Indonesia is yet another major economy making the move toward formally joining BRICS. Doing so would not only improve its economic and diplomatic ties with the member nations, it would give it access to new markets, trade, and investments. Direct development could even be a possibility with foreign investment a likely potential outcome for those accepted into the bloc.

As one of the world’s largest economies, ranking 16th,  its membership would further propel BRICS to economic dominance.

Countries that have indicated interest in joining BRICS

With 11 countries having made formal declarations of their desire to join BRICS, there are a total of 23 others who have made informal indications that they would like to join the bloc. In this section, we’ll discuss some of the major contenders in that list, along with touching on the other countries that have been named.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is high on the list for joining BRICS, and not just because of its historically tense relations with the West. As one of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan - now run by the Taliban - is interested in establishing its legitimacy in the region and around the world. Joining BRICS would be a valid path for that to happen. Already part of the BRICS New Development Bank, Afghanistan's interest in joining the bloc is clear.

Cuba

Cuba is in the midst of considering joining BRICS, according to news from Julio Antonio Garmendía Peña, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba to the Russian Federation. Economic cooperation with Russia and China are first on the list for its reasons to join.

Cuba is one of Russia’s primary trading partners in the West, making its location as an ally highly valuable for BRICS.

Mexico

While some sources indicate that Mexico is exploring the possibility of joining BRICS, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is openly denying it. He asserts that Mexico is more interested in maintaining its ties with the West than joining the upstart BRICS, which makes some sense considering the U.S. is Mexico’s largest trading partner.  The proximity with the U.S. does cause quite a bit of strife between our two nations, though, so perhaps Mexico having other options on the table could be a good negotiating tactic for them.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is among the Central American countries that has expressed interest in joining BRICS. However, 60% of Nicaragua’s exports currently go to the United States, and joining BRICS could potentially endanger that. The benefit for Nicaragua if it joined would be greater access to new markets.

Pakistan

Currently in economic jeopardy, Pakistan is lobbying to join BRICS as a means of stabilizing itself and its economy. Joining BRICS is currently part of Pakistan’s foreign policy agenda, leaving the possibility of its membership up to the bloc.

Turkey

Turkey was among the early countries to have been noted for potential membership to BRICS. “I wish they (BRICS members) would take the necessary steps to let us (Turkey) in and we could take our place in BRICS, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said way back in 2018. At the time, he cited how it would increase Turkey's economic and development cooperation opportunities, along with advancements in the field of energy.

Other countries who have voiced interest

Along with those mentioned above, AngolaComoros,  D.R. CongoGabonGuinea-BissauHondurasKazakhstanNigeriaSenegalSudanSyriaThailandTunisiaUgandaUruguayVenezuela, and Zimbabwe have all expressed a desire to join BRICS, bringing our total list up to 34.

Beyond the named countries we’ve covered, BRICS is asserting that a total of 40 nations are now interested in joining the bloc – including all of the Global South.  It’s hard to say which countries will get the invite, but a BRICS expansion in the near-term is a very likely scenario and maintaining a 2nd tier “Friends of BRICS” category is always an option too.

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