The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA Ghana) has organised a roundtable on the theme, ‘Africa Through the Eyes of BRICS’. The event, attended by participants from civil society groups, government agencies, the media and industry players, focused on the current shift in global geopolitics from the hitherto known Pro Western era to the current dominance of the BRICS, made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Prof. Ransford Gyampo, Research Fellow at the IEA and Director at the University of Ghana’s Centre for European Studies, gave the welcome address, stressing on the need for participants to follow keenly the deliberations, considering the relevance of the topic for discussion, which is an emerging force in the current world order.
The guest speaker, Prof. Oliver Stuenkel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, emphasized the four key points for the discussion. The shift of economic power to Asia, the geopolitical consequences of western centrism and the strategy of emerging powers, the rise of the ‘parallel order’ and the BRICS countries’ strategies for Africa constituted the main discussion points for the day.
Prof. Stuenkel responding to some questions after his presentation
Prof. Stuenkel explained that three of the five BRICS, Brazil, South Africa and Russia, are currently growing lower than during the first decade of the century, although on the whole, the group, collectively, is still growing at rates above those in the EU and the United States. China alone, according to available statistics, has added US$ 2 trillion to the global GDP over the past 20 years, an approach that has created in its wake some 120 million jobs while helping 400 million people escape poverty. Comparatively, China’s rate economic progression is much faster than that of the United Kingdom or the United States, a situation that has led to a global sense of unpreparedness.
These strategic moves by the Asian powerhouse, has ensured that China is presently the most important trading partner of almost 100 countries, although knowledge about China and other rising powers remain limited globally.
Nonetheless, this global shift comes with its geopolitical consequences. The slow rate at which the West is losing the long-held capacity to determine the global agenda is a major consequence of this gradual shift. Majority of Western observers, as a result of the current trend, believe such non-Western actors only play a constructive role in global affairs pertaining to the provision of public goods and the creation of rules and norms for their trading partners. Another consequence of this shift is that most thinkers are pessimistic of the Post-Western World, describing it as ‘chaotic, disorienting and dangerous’.
Strategically, emerging powers are gradually creating new institutions that are indicative of a ‘parallel order’ instead of confronting existing institutions, a move that has arisen mainly out of the lack of social mobility within the already existing institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). BRICS nations also strategically do not present fundamentally new ideas about the older global order. Rather, they have resorted to the creation of these parallel institutions to reduce their and their new trading partners’ dependence on the West. The implication of these moves, in the case of China, is the higher possibility of becoming the world’s greatest economy, a move that will ensure the Asian giant builds more alliances quicker than is possible presently.
Post presentation remarks bordered on what Ghana stands to benefit from relations with the BRICS, levels of exploitation, especially regarding the influx of some Chinese, mainly exploiting the nation’s natural resource. Participants also underscored the need for the BRICS to consider what Ghana, as a nation, could contribute to making such collaboration one of a win-win situation and rather than a lopsided relation.
Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana) was represented at the roundtable discussion by James Anquandah, Communications and Mobilisation Manager.