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Insight & Analysis - July 13, 2023

Ethiopia’s Bid to Join BRICS: What It Means for the Country and the World

Ethiopia’s aspiration to become a member of BRICS, the group consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, has sparked conversations about the potential impact on the country, Africa, and global dynamics. As Ethiopia aims to enhance its international position, attract investment, and shape its geopolitical influence, joining BRICS presents both opportunities and challenges. In this article, we explore the advantages and drawbacks of Ethiopia’s potential BRICS membership, analyzing what it means for the country’s economy and its role in the global arena.

The Significance of Geopolitical Factors

By joining BRICS, Ethiopia could elevate its geopolitical importance and potentially influence how Western powers perceive the country. This shift could have implications for aid, investment, and overall relations with the West. However, there is a possibility that Western powers might view Ethiopia as aligning with an alternative bloc, which could impact the level of support from these countries.

Economic Prospects and Considerations

Joining BRICS would open doors to economic opportunities for Ethiopia. With its rapid economic growth and existing trade relationships with China and India, Ethiopia could benefit from increased trade and investment within the BRICS framework. This membership would signal Ethiopia’s openness to global engagement and could enhance its image as an attractive destination for investments. Nevertheless, Ethiopia would need to navigate the challenges of aligning its economic policies with those of BRICS members and safeguarding its own interests within the group.

Negotiating Power and Financial Leverage

Being a part of BRICS would provide Ethiopia with stronger negotiating power and leverage in international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This could enable Ethiopia to have a greater say in decision-making processes and potentially influence the policies of Western-dominated institutions. Additionally, the BRICS Contingency Reserve Arrangement and discussions on a new BRICS currency pose alternatives to the US dollar hegemony, which could have implications for Ethiopia’s financial landscape. However, Ethiopia would need to carefully navigate the complexities of the BRICS financial system to ensure its interests are protected.

Respecting Sovereignty and Human Rights

BRICS emphasizes non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, which may appeal to Ethiopia’s desire for political independence and freedom from external scrutiny. However, it is essential to note that BRICS members have varying degrees of commitment to this principle. Joining BRICS could provide Ethiopia with more autonomy from conditionalities imposed by Western powers, but it also raises questions about how BRICS balances concerns about sovereignty and human rights.

Implications for Ethiopia’s International Standing

Becoming a BRICS member would potentially restore the international image of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who faced criticism during the recent civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Joining BRICS could indicate that Ethiopia remains politically acceptable to major world powers. This could further position Ethiopia as a prominent African country, given its hosting of the African Union headquarters and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.

All things considered, Ethiopia’s bid to join BRICS carries significant implications for the country’s economy, geopolitical influence, and relations with Western powers. While it presents opportunities to enhance Ethiopia’s global standing and attract investment, it also poses challenges in terms of aligning economic policies, safeguarding interests within BRICS, and addressing potential concerns about human rights. The outcome of Ethiopia’s application will shape not only the country’s future but also have broader implications for Africa and the global order.

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