South Africa’s future as an influential power in a fundamentally changed world is increasingly tied to its willingness to lead the rest of the African continent to peace and prosperity.
Its membership in Brics ( along with Brazil, Russia, India and China) should be able to strengthen its hand in Africa so long as it maintains its leadership position, South African Institute of International Affairs Chief Executive Elizabeth Sidiropoulos argues in the Human Sciences Research Council’s annual State of the Nation report.
“South Africa will have to play an even greater role in underwriting the stability and prosperity of its own neighborhood,” she writes in her chapter, “South Africa and the Brics in a multilateral, multipolar world.”.
By far the group’s smallest country, both economically and in demographic size, South Africa has had to justify its inclusion in a club whose two leaders, China and Russia, are giants, nuclear powers and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
President Jacob Zuma hosted the group’s annual summit in Durban last year. The African branch of the planned Brics development bank will be based in Johannesburg, the Brics summit decided this year.
When South Africa joined the group in December 2010, many commentators noted that it was hardly in the same league — it had a smaller economy and population than its fellow members. But its inclusion brought the group representation from all the developing-world continents (Latin America, Asia and Africa).
If South Africa plays its cards right, it could hold its own as a regional “pivot state” in a context where U.S. hegemony is waning and new rising powers are not yet willing or able to replace America in the global driving seat “The post-U.S. world system may be more anarchic and less rules-based,” Sidiropoulos writes.
South Africa could build its influence, if it is not muscled out of its own backyard by Brics powers who themselves are eyeing business and other opportunities in Africa.
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