Of BRICS, G2O and Deconsolidated African States

Of BRICS, G2O and Deconsolidated African States

Thursday, October 5, 2023 6:27 pm

Ademola Araoye

Ademola Araoye,

Ademola Araoye

The fact that only two of fifty-six African states are members of the BRICS leaves the door open for the West to seek to keep as many African states as it can within the traditional Bretton-Woods economic circle. This is in the face of the vigorous challenge of BRICS to the current structure of the United States dollar-denominated global trade system, including the centrality of the Western-driven mechanism of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) for international transactions. Western response to BRICS, perceived to be a threat to the continued hegemony of the United States, in Africa has been expressed at two different levels: The first Western countermeasure, with rather limited success, has been a long-term project seeking to discredit China, perceived as the main instigator of the BRICS challenge, in Africa and warn of the danger of a new colonialism. As far back as 12 years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had warned that Africa must beware of “new colonialism” as China expands ties there and focus instead on partners able to help build productive capacity on the continent.

This admonition seems not to have gained traction in Africa. The second has involved political rhetoric acknowledging the right of states to freely make their choices but at the same time incentivizing and exploiting the weaknesses of the many de-consolidated African states and their regimes, often lacking in domestic legitimacy, to try to keep them in line. A more recent illustration of the first track is the response of Zambia to Western overtures to lessen its economic relations with China in favor of the West. During a visit by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to Zambia, they sought to woo the country away from Russian, a strategic partner of China, and Chinese influence. While in the country, Yellen discussed Zambia’s debt crisis, propagating the narrative of Chinese “debt-trap diplomacy.” In response, Fred M’membe, President of the Socialist Party Zambia, explained the impact of the debt crisis in Zambia and the brutal austerity measures imposed by the IMF loan program on the country. M’membe observed that economic relations between the West and the Bretton-Woods institutions had only bred speculation and profiteering by the West. He affirmed that the debt trap alluded to by the West to discredit China in Zambia was created by the West.

The International Monetary Fund, for example, offered the country credit lines just in order to service existing debt obligations to Western creditors. He noted that 70 percent of the debt of Zambia was owed to Western financial institutions. Accordingly, the scare of debt trap raised against China in Zambia was lie invented by the West. Indeed, China had not raised any alarm on 30 percent of Zambia’s debt to it. M’mbembe cited concrete projects like dams and trains that are associated with loans taken from China. To conclude, he noted that China had never threatened the sovereignty of the country in the manner that the West had done. In the past, the West had refused to help Zambia when Southern Africa was fighting the Apartheid regime. All the liberation movements were undermined by Western governments that fully supported the Apartheid regime, including the assassination of African leaders. Essentially, western interests in Africa were to exploit Africa’s resources in their own interests and also to deny those resources to China. The history of the West in Africa had led to the alienation of Africans from a West that is seen as predatory.

On the second approach to Africa on BRICS, Western powers like the US, Germany, and the European Union reacted to the BRICS but without indicating the obvious: their plans on how to blunt the entrenchment of its influence in Africa. Firstly, the White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, revealed that America will not stop other countries from choosing partners to trade with. She stressed that the US is trading with all major countries and will not interfere in their internal economic matters. Good diplomacy. It is instructive however that given salient domestic considerations, principally the deconsolidated nature of most African states, opportunities exist for the West to develop closer economic interaction with deconsolidated states such as Nigeria. Nigeria was overlooked in its applications to join the BRICS fold precisely because the transformation of values galvanizing radical political action in a number of African states has yet to impact it as a state and society.

However, in the medium to long term, there are countries like Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal that may be expected in the medium to long term to confront the genie of radical intrusions into the public realm in francophone West Africa. The political leaders of deconsolidated states are among the most corrupt and incompetent set of people in the international system. With scant legitimacy in deconsolidated state environments at home, these regimes, often having emerged through dubious democratic processes, rely on continued recognition of their regimes by their international sympathizers to validate themselves. Analysts note that one reason for the rejection of Nigeria’s application to join BRICS is the character of its political class. It is noted that nothing matters to them (Nigeria’s political class) apart from their well-being, comfort, and luxurious lifestyle. Nigeria was thus deemed not in a position to assert itself as an independent player in world affairs.

The delinking of the political leadership of most of Africa from the sentiments and expressed wishes of the population, that is associated with deconsolidated political entities, is a factor constantly enabling the exploitation of the continent by its interlocutors in the international system. In a scenario of holistic deficits to the continent, the linkage of African leadership to Western political and economic interests that is classically expressed in Franc Afrique, the continued hemorrhage of African wealth is assured to the benefit of Africa’s corrupt leadership and their Western collaborators. In the face of a challenge to the structure of the global economy by BRICS, Western steps to shore up its relationship with Africa have entailed enhancing the formal designations of the status of Africa in some of its more prominent institutions.

In September 2023, at the summit of the G20 in New Delhi, the African Union was designated a permanent member of the G20. The G20 comprises the world’s richest and most powerful countries. It represents around 85% of global GDP and 75% of global trade, as well as two-thirds of the world’s population. That was prior to the AU joining. The permanent members of the G20 are now Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkey, United Kingdom and United States, along with the EU and the AU. Prior to the AU joining the bloc, South Africa was the only African presence and economy to have a seat at the table. The African Union, a continental body of 55 member states was granted the same status as the European Union – the only regional bloc with a full membership. The AU had previously been designated as “invited international organization”. The changed status of the AU is dubiously expected to strengthen the G20 and also arguably enhance the voice of the Global South in deliberations of the G20. It is reasoned that as countries in the Global South continue to rise in prominence, it is imperative for institutions like G-20 to become more reflective of today’s diverse global landscape.

The logic is that membership in the G-20 would give African nations a direct say in tackling major global challenges, including economic growth. However, the impression that the AU would interact at the forum to articulate a monolithic African voice would require further interrogations. Such further illumination is required considering that leading economies of Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa remain outside the circuit of this powerful platform. The case of Nigeria is glaring in revealing how political factors, mainly the deconsolidated character of Nigeria’s internal structure, including the nature of its political class, and internal dynamics have impacted perceptions of its capacity to act responsibly at the international level. In relation to the G20, Nigeria’s estimated nominal Gross Domestic Product of USD 574 billion far outranks that of South Africa with USD 399 billion. Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading cocoa and cashew producer, is experiencing one of the fastest sustained economic growth rates in Sub-Saharan Africa in over a decade. With real GDP growth averaging 8.2% between 2012 and 2019.

In 2022, in the context of the global crisis, the Ivorian economy recorded real GDP growth estimated at 6.7%, down from 7% in 2021. Growth was driven by private consumption, supported by public investment and wage increases in the civil service. These are formidable credentials for participation at global forums such as the G20. But, again, with a regime instituted and controlled by France, a deconsolidated Cote d’Ivoire may be perceived as a mere echo chamber of France’s interest. Cote d’Ivoire thus has no national will to mobilize a national or African perspective of any salience in the global context. Politics thus matters. Relatively consolidated states in Africa understand this reality and deploy it to the fullest to advance themselves, contentiously, as the voice of the continent. With an estimated population of 223,804,632 in 2023, the sixth largest in the world, and the biggest economy on the continent, the politics of Nigeria has been anything but ruinous.

However, the elevated status of the AU in the G20 would seem to have been driven by the immediate challenges posed to the integrity of the structure and leadership of the global economy by its undermining of the developmental aspirations of the global South. The roles of its institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, in perpetuating the developmental strictures of the global South have been nebulous. It is yet to be seen if the formal re-designation of the status of the continental body in the G20 would translate into any meaningful impact in the economic emancipation of the South from the West as envisioned by BRICS.

Meanwhile, at the bilateral level the United Kingdom has taken the initiative to strengthen economic relations, especially bilateral trade, with states in West Africa. Britain’s export finance agency added the naira to its list of “pre-approved currencies” for financing transactions. This will enable the agency to provide financing for transactions with Nigerian businesses denominated in the local currency. The naira will become one of three West African currencies that has been pre-approved for its program of funding transactions that promote trade with Britain. Also, by September 2023, total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and Nigeria was £7.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023, an increase of 48.4% or £2.5 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022. Despite this though, a BRICS state, India, remains Nigeria’s largest trading partner.

The plans and exertions of BRICS notwithstanding, numerous deconsolidated states in Africa would remain vulnerable to Western influence just to protect the personal careers of political elites at the expense of the long-term interests of the state and its people. The consequences could be a further entrenchment of Africa’s peculiar kind of instrumentalized democracy to protect the dominant political elites and also ensure that Western interests are well-oiled to ensure continued Western support for their regimes.  Yet, in the medium to long term, in the face of increasing political awareness and the demonstration effect of the expected positive impact of BRICS engagements on the continent, internal tensions around the jousting of the entrenched status quo and radical movements repudiating the West that is consistent with emerged impulses may lead to unpleasant interventions as was witnessed in francophone West Africa. Should this take on the character of an avalanche, a season of revolutionary confrontations cannot be ruled out of the cards.



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