South Africa too small to join BRIC?

There is an ongoing debate whether or not South Africa should become the next member of the “BRIC” nations. The pro camp states that given that South Africa is Africa’s biggest and most vital economy it only makes sense, plus given its democratic leanings grown through the struggle of Apartheid, it is a natural fit to go along with BRIC nations Brazil and India.

Given that South Africa is the continent’s biggest economy and that it is already part of the G-20, it may be able to argue that it could represent Africa’s interests. President Jacob Zuma has been making a diplomatic push with BRIC countries and Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, tipped as China’s next president.

South Africa can also argue that it is a gateway to the continent for business in a way that it simply wasn’t a decade or so ago. And hosting a successful World Cup showed what a positive image of Africa it could portray.

But the growth figures show up the stark difference between a country slowly recovering from recession – struggling to increase productivity and burdened by high unemployment and social costs – and some of the world’s most vibrant economies.

Those in the against camp argue that South Africa’s relative size and population to Brazil, Russia, India and China is a problem.  Jim O’Neill, the originator of the term “BRIC”, says that South Africa shouldn’t be the next country to become part of the BRICs, rather Nigeria:  “The country in Africa that has the real potential is Nigeria,” he says, “South Africa doesn’t have enough people in its working population. It’s a chronic problem.”

While Africa as a whole might be doing rather well, South Africa is a relative laggard. The IMF’s growth estimate of just under 3 percent for this year ranks it 36th out of 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Forecasts for next year put South Africa well behind the BRICs.

Some eye-catching numbers from Standard Bank has some interesting figures on the growing trade-economic ties and influence of BRICs countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — on Africa.  The 2008 financial crisis only slowed down the ties for a short time, but they are taking off now. These are some of the numbers:

  • By 2015, BRIC-Africa trade will have incresed threefold, to $530 billion from $150 billion this year.
  • BRICs share of Africa’s total trade will increase from one-fifth today to one-third in the next five years.
  • BRICS foreign direct investment stock in Africa will swell to more than $150 billion from around $60 billion today.

Here is previous post about African nations possibly becoming part of BRIC nations.

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