Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Introducing BRICS from above and BRICS-from-below

In Durban, South Africa, five heads of state meet on March 26-27 to assure the rest of Africa that their countries’ corporations are better investors in infrastructure, mining, oil and agriculture than the traditional European and US multinationals. The Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA (BRICS) summit will also include 16 heads of state from Africa, including some notorious tyrants. A new $50 billion ‘BRICS Bank’ will probably be launched. There will be more talk about monetary alternatives to the US dollar.

There seem to be three narratives about BRICS. The first is promotional and mainly comes from government and allied intellectuals; the second perspective is uncertainty, typical of fence-sitting scholars and NGOs; and the third is highly critical, from forces sometimes termed the ‘independent left.’

The first narrative is represented in this special issue of Pambazuka through the most intellectually-engaged speech about BRICS we have found by any local politician: Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s foreign minister. At a gathering of the 5th BRICS Academic Forum on March 10, she requested robust, critical engagement, and by reading the ‘Recommendations’ of that group’s meeting at the Durban University of Technology, you can assess whether she can be satisfied.

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