Sunday, 1st October 2023

Nigeria, BRICS and future of economic integration

By Editorial Board
11 September 2023   |   4:10 am
Global stakeholders’ attention on the 15th Annual BRICS Summit held recently in South Africa is not misplaced. In particular, non-member countries should ponder on the prospect the new economic bloc portends as a formidable counterpoise to the overbearing dominance of the global economy..

People walk past a banner outside the venue for the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg, on August 20, 2023. The BRICS countries, an acronym of the five members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, meet for three days for a summit in Johannesburg starting August 22, 2023.(Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

Global stakeholders’ attention on the 15th Annual BRICS Summit held recently in South Africa is not misplaced. In particular, non-member countries should ponder on the prospect the new economic bloc portends as a formidable counterpoise to the overbearing dominance of the global economy controlled by countries of the West countries, notably the G7. There should be no contention about the fact that BRICS is an excellent reaction to the commanding influence of Bretton Woods Institutions as championed mostly through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is evident that the prospect of BRICS poses challenge to the prevailing global economic order; necessitating sentiment around the possible reenactment of allegiance of the cold war era; more in the economic spheres as reinforced by the leading role being played in the new coalition by Russia and China.

Notably, the BRICS Summit in South Africa raises dust around Nigeria’s prevarication over membership of the budding platform perceived as the decisive environment for the economic integration for the Third Word and projected as potentially capable of dominating the global economy by 2050. The non-participation of Nigeria at the summit understandably became issue of deep-rooted concern to those who justifiably posit that the Giant of Africa has more to gain as a leading player in the emerging global economic bloc. Considering that the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) with combined foreign reserves estimated at US$4 trillion constitute 43 per cent of the world’s population and contribute 16 per cent to the global trade as well as jointly account for higher share of the global GDP than the G7 nations, it would appear justifiable to project that Nigeria stands to reap quantum economic prosperity by deploying her vast economic potential and huge population to competitive advantage through membership of BRICS. Already, the BRICS countries are believed to be unflinchingly committed to the agenda of a common international currency to be deployed in enhancing trading activities amongst the borders of member-States and allies. Nevertheless, the prospect of Nigeria’s membership of BRICS should be viewed from the standpoint of the fact that Nigeria can be an asset to the group on account of what would be brought to the table as much as Nigeria needs the coalition.
In any case, the argument that Nigeria ought to have considered membership of BRICS long before now and should indeed have secured a place in the fold ahead of South Africa, which joined the coalition in 2010 is reasonable and meritorious. Notwithstanding, it is legitimate to however caution that the urge to be part of BRICS should be weighed against the backdrop of attendant backlashes of jettisoning the country’s non-align posture to global politics, which has proven a huge asset that could readily be leveraged upon for opportunities to grow the domestic economy outside the confine of any coalition inclusive of BRICS.
It is therefore germane to posit that while membership of BRICS seems reasonably attractive, the most important thing for Nigeria is to be at the decision-making table as a major stakeholder on the strength of her potential rather than merely seeking to play on the fringe, or on the menu list at the table as puppet of domineering or expansionist economic interest of super power; thereby seen as leaning either to the West or East. The special invitations recently extended to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by U.S. President, Biden and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi of India; a member of BRICS and key player in BRICS should serve as a pointer to Nigeria’s strategic position as a potential player in the global economy on the score of her innumerable resources for investment opportunities that could be tapped into, as well as the huge population for robust market. While the opportunities presented by BRICS should be tapped into in the light of the prevailing economic challenges facing the country, the likely consequences of discarding the prospects of integrating with other interest groups outside BRICS should be properly considered and holistically contextualised.
Emerging realities of the 21st Century, no doubt, call for closer economic integration amongst underdeveloped countries that are often left with the short end of the stick in the prevailing global investment and trade regime despite their huge potential that should translate into economic growth for sustainable development at the domestic fronts. Therefore, while the concern as to how Nigeria should embrace the opportunities offered by BRICS in view of the prevalent global politics is genuine and instructive, it is more significant for Nigeria to look inward for her internal economic and industrial reform. The country needs to particularly shield African countries from being further shortchanged as mere ball boys while the big guys play the game. While it is acknowledged that BRICS could help bring countries that are currently marginalised in the global market into the centre stage, the ultimate sovereign interest of participants should be the motivation, in view of the far-reaching trajectories; direct and indirect, of the new emerging markets. This is more so that the world is increasingly becoming a hotbed of competition amongst developed countries with their primary economic interests being the essential motive; first and foremost.
Therefore, to be equal stakeholders at the global stage; in the light of neocolonial experience that looms large, Nigeria must address the compelling challenge of fostering national cohesion with concerted attention devoted to policies that translate the huge population into viable productive force for the purposes of harnessing the opportunities of comparative advantage, whether in BRICS or at any other platform of economic integration. Preferably, Nigeria should go for alternatives to BRICS, that is neither against the West nor against the East; a new concert of medium power.
Nigeria is yet to utilise her human and material resources strategically or fully as a result of the faulty governance structure that must urgently be addressed in addition to the prerequisite of the right leadership to create the needed inputs for optimising strategic partnerships and integration for maximum benefits in the emerging world market.