For the past few years Brazil, Russia, India and China, hence the acronym BRIC, have carried the world's economic growth on their shoulders. And although they represent only about 25% of the economy, one half of the planet's growth comes from these countries. On December 24th, 2010, this foursome became a group of five with the addition of South Africa. South Africa, really? What justifies its presence in this select group? Does it represent another growing world player? How about in terms of agriculture?
The four countries that form BRIC are essentially giants. According to the World Bank, they are ranked second to tenth among the world's largest economies. As for South Africa it is ranked number 27, not quite in the same league. Its impact on the planet's geopolitics cannot be compared.
Moreover, with a recorded annual growth of 3% it is not about to develop to the point that it will catch up with the other great economic powers. South Africa's economy (gold, diamond, coal) depends almost entirely on mining; however, it is weighed down by endemic unemployment and social chasms of gigantic proportions.
As for agriculture, it barely represents 3% of this country's economy of 50 million people. Although there are 15 million acres of harvested land (about seven times the size of Quebec's farmed land), it's not enough to make it a super power. South Africa's agriculture, a remnant of apartheid, introduces a startling duality: the ongoing productivist agriculture in white-owned businesses is in stark contrast with subsistence-based agriculture, which is still going strong. In fact, it's rather surprising to see that South Africa is ranked fifth among the world's biggest exporters of corn. Its production equals that of Canada, but it exports much more. Supported by a positive agrifood trade balance, the country also exports wine, fresh fruit and sugar.
Ironically, it is only in terms of per person GDP that South Africa even resembles the countries that are part of BRIC. It is just above $8,000 US, while in China it is $5,445 and $12,594 in Brazil. For the purposes of comparison, it is equivalent to $50,000 in the US and Canada. All things considered, how can South Africa's inclusion in a group comprised of Brazil, Russia, India and China be justified? The reason can undoubtedly be explained by looking beyond its status of representing Africa as a continent. South Africa is a big player in Africa, but it is just another player in the world scheme.
Fist comes BRICA, then comes …
In the years to come, after officializing BRICA, we will be talking about the Next eleven countries. Such countries will, by recording strong growth, change the face of world economy and geopolitical balance.
Among these countries are South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and Nigeria among others. From the initial trio (North America, Western Europe and Japan) to BRICA and onto the next eleven… the world is changing at an alarming rate. Imagine not so long ago, the Heads of the G7 were responsible for setting the rhythm of the world's geopolitics. This new structure of balance and its ensuing political complexity are nothing new to the WTO's festering multilateral negotiations.