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Prime Minister Abiy knocks on the BRICS door

Although Addis Ababa has strong economic links with the US and Europe, it is pushing a non-aligned diplomatic stance

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's application to join the BRICS economic grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) looks to be mostly about political symbolism and attempting to return the country to global diplomacy after the two years of civil war.

Ethiopia, like South Africa, tries to keep a delicate balance between its commercial ties with western economies and its diplomatic links to Russia and China. It is one of at least 10 countries, mostly with much bigger economies, that have applied to join the BRICS. It is getting more resonance in Asia, Africa and Latin America now it has positioned itself as an alternative formation to the western-dominated G7.

'We expect BRICS to give us a positive response to the request we have made,' foreign ministry spokesperson Meles Alem said last week, confirming that the application had been made. There is little prospect of a decision being made any time soon.

Apart from the damage to Ethiopia's international standing that has been caused by the conflict in the Tigray region, and the continuing  instability in the Amhara and Oromia regions, Ethiopia's economic output is less than half that of South Africa, currently the smallest economy in the bloc.

The waiting list for BRICS' membership is growing. The club itself is repositioning itself as the geopolitical divides have been growing between the United States and Europe versus China and Russia, especially after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year. But its capacity to develop economic power as a grouping, beyond its demographic and market weight is being tested as financial conditions worsen in developing economies.

Egypt and Algeria are among the countries to have applied to join as well as Argentina. Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, has also been proposed as a member. In May, the South African government, which hosts the next leaders' summit set to be in Pretoria in August, said over 19 countries had expressed interest in BRICS membership (AC Vol 64 No 3, President Putin's Africa summit in July will be key diplomatic test).

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