13 countries, in addition to the five member countries, participated in the 14th BRICS Summit which was held on June 23rd. After Iran, which has already presented its candidacy, could Algeria join the organization?
Five African Heads of State attended the BRICS Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) last Thursday. If the presence of Cyril Ramaphosa is logical, four other African leaders also participated in the diplomatic summit: Abiy Ahmed (Ethiopia), Abdel Fattah al-Sissi (Egypt), Macky Sall (Senegal) and Abdelmadjid Tebboune (Algeria).
Algerian political scientists have been speculating on the possibility of Algeria joining the Third World diplomatic conference for three years now. The 14th BRICS Summit is already beginning to reveal its secrets: Iran is said to have submitted its candidacy, supported by Russia. Argentina, also present, would be interested. Algeria, for its part, could well be the second African country to take the plunge.
Indeed, Abdelmadjid Tebboune – the first to speak – recalled, during his speech at the BRICS Summit, “the imperative to ensure the establishment of a new economic order where parity and equity between countries will reign”.
"Our past experiences have shown us that the imbalance recorded on the international scene and the marginalization of emerging countries within world bodies constitute a source of instability, lack of equity and absence of development", affirms the president of Algeria.
“Fresh blood” for the BRICS
Chinese President Xi Jinping, for his part, said, "We should reject zero-sum games and jointly oppose hegemony and power politics." "The infusion of fresh blood will inject new vitality into BRICS integration and increase its representativeness and influence," said the Chinese head of state.
This Tuesday, June 28, two exits from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Iran and Russia made it possible to confirm Tehran's official candidacy to join the BRICS, the beginning of the steps by Buenos Aires, and the support of Russia to the latter. "While the White House is considering what else it will sabotage, ban or spoil in the world, Argentina and Iran have asked to join the BRICS", announced the spokeswoman for Moscow diplomacy, Maria Zakharova.
As far as Algeria is concerned, a future candidacy for the BRICS would make sense, especially after Iran. As a reminder, Algeria was the first country in the Mena region to join China's New Silk Roads initiative. It is also the African country with the largest Chinese diaspora and, although trade volumes with China are in 7th place in Africa, Algeria is the first target of Chinese direct investment on the continent.
The other world power member of the BRICS, Russia, counts Algiers as its first African partner in armaments, energies, education and culture. Although the supply of Algerian gas to Europe has raised rumors of tensions between Algiers and Moscow, the two countries have demystified all this with new defense and arms agreements and bilateral visits.
One, two, three… and the economy?
The Algerian expert in international relations, and director of the National School of Political Science (ENS), Mustapha Saïdj, put forward the theory of Algerian membership of the BRICS since 2018. He considered that the partnership with China "gave its fruits" and would eventually "connect Asia and Africa". Saïdj took as an example the Trans-Saharan and the other flagship projects between China and Algeria, which, according to him, allowed Algeria to join the group of “emerging nations”.
According to the specialist, Algeria has the possibility of integrating the BRICS before 2030. The Diplomatic Conference has, above all, economic stakes. At this level, Algeria is pursuing the same strategy as the other countries in the bloc. Namely a stable market thanks to an infallible security of the territory, large foreign exchange reserves and a sovereigntist diplomacy supported by a great military power. Algeria is also an energy power whose production and revenues (gas, oil, iron, phosphates and cement) are mainly controlled by the State.
Financially and commercially, Algeria last floated its currency in 2011. And despite falling currency reserves, it remains first in Africa with 174 tons of gold and over $43 billion. reserves, where it exceeds South Africa and Angola respectively. As for trade, Algeria is the 5th African exporting country and the 3rd importing country. Far from being a closed economy, therefore, despite the clichés.
A hesitation of Algeria which is explained
So, of course, joining the BRICS should only be a formality for Algeria if it wanted to. On the other hand, there is food for thought for the North African country. Joining the bloc of emerging countries has its advantages and disadvantages.
One of the strengths of the group of states is the ease of trade in the pharmaceutical sector. And strengthening the partnership in the fight against viral diseases will, according to the leaders of India and China, be a priority for the BRICS.
However, if the two Asian powers, as well as Russia, were exemplary in the production of vaccines and health sovereignty during the Covid-19 crisis, they also faced many problems. For example, China and Russia had to go through international administrations and initiatives to distribute their vaccines – the Emirates' NCEMA or the WHO's COVAX.
Human development, for its part, is a common obstacle among the BRICS countries. Whether it is education, life expectancy or per capita income (GNI), the three vectors of human development are not a priority for the BRICS. Investment in infrastructure, security, industry and agriculture come first. However, Algeria oscillates between the two models. Successive governments have tried to introduce hybrid governance, but the result has not lived up to expectations in several areas. Where the North African country shines is above all in ecology, energy, security and industry.
Factors that would encourage Algeria to join the BRICS
So many factors that explain the Algerian hesitation. But other considerations will encourage Algeria to join the BRICS.
First, the BRICS represent 42% of the population and account for more than half of the economic growth in the world. For Algeria, past experiences have shown the difficulties of regionalist integration. Relations with France and Spain, for example, change often and quickly. It is the same with the Arab countries, if Algiers continues to get closer to the countries of the Gulf, Egypt and Libya, the Maghreb State shares very few cooperation agreements with the latter.
On the other hand, Algeria maintains diplomatic ambitions in Africa and the Mediterranean, congruent with the BRICS vision. Among others: technology transfer in the energy sector, non-alignment with the West and predominance of win-win relationships with countries that are not immediate neighbours.
Finally, there is no doubt that Algiers is carefully observing the consequences of the tensions between Russia and the West. NATO, which has improvised itself as the world's policeman, continues to expand. Algeria, she, continues to adopt a policy of neutrality and takes care to exclude itself from the tensions which oppose the various parties”, according to the chief of staff Saïd Chengriha. But until when will Algeria remain neutral if, for example, the non-NATO major allied states (MNMA) – Morocco, Tunisia, Israel or Egypt – decide to join the organization?