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HSE Hosts Round Table ‘Africa and BRICS: Reflections and Prospects’

On April 15, 2024 HSE University hosted a roundtable discussion ‘Africa and BRICS: Reflections and Prospects.’ The event featured leading experts from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) Steven Gruzd and Gustavo de Carvalho and was moderated by HSE Vice Rector and Head of the BRICS Expert Council–Russia Victoria Panova.

The roundtable discussion focused on the impact of BRICS on the African region and the prospects for development of international relations. Africa and BRICS have been closely collaborating since 2010, strengthening economic ties significantly. Currently, BRICS is the continent's main trading partner. This highlights the need to develop a strategy for further partnership and discuss the outcomes of this collaboration for both sides.

Representatives of BRICS countries and leading experts discussed the history of the organisation, paying special attention to its African component. They emphasized the critical importance of finding compromising solutions to complex international issues in the rapidly evolving multipolar world. It is also crucial to foster cultural, humanitarian, and economic exchanges within BRICS and beyond. This requires the clear gradation of partner countries within the organisation and the establishment of a sovereign financial system applicable to African countries. Tensions within BRICS are unacceptable; diplomatic practice needs to be enhanced and extended beyond BRICS.

Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), mentioned the historical ties between Russia and South Africa, considering the country's accession to BRICS as one of its main achievements. He noted a paradigm shift in South Africa's BRICS membership, from being perceived solely as a gateway to Africa to becoming one of its main ambassadors and leaders on the international stage. He also assessed the possibilities for future development of multilateral relations between BRICS and African countries.

Steven Gruzd, Head of the African Governance and Diplomacy programme at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
© HSE University

‘South Africa has demonstrated strong support for its continent within the framework of BRICS and actively represents it on the international stage. It is now crucial to create conditions that allow new members of the alliance to adapt quickly, and South Africa's experience can help in this regard. Our experience in the diplomatic sphere can also contribute to the formation of multilateral relations within BRICS and beyond, as well as help prevent conflicts and escalation,’ the speaker noted. Additionally, the speaker highlighted South Africa's desire for closer and more productive cooperation within the African continent, especially among countries that are members of the same international organisations.

Gustavo de Carvalho, Senior Researcher on African Governance and Diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
© HSE University

Gustavo de Carvalho, Senior Researcher on African Governance and Diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), highlighted Africa's increasing role in strengthening international relations within BRICS and called for continued efforts in this direction.

He proposed developing trade relations within BRICS to strengthen the alliance's sovereignty and improve economic conditions in member countries. The accession of new countries presents both advantages and challenges, and Mr de Carvalho emphasised the need for patience in their adaptation.

Victoria Panova, HSE Vice Rector and Head of the BRICS Expert Council–Russia
© HSE University

Victoria Panova, HSE Vice Rector and Head of the BRICS Expert Council–Russia, in her address, drew attention to the role of BRICS in ensuring international security and stability. ‘What can we do to make our voice heard, so that our peoples live in a better world? We represent the World majority. We have every right to promote our vision. Being part of BRICS allows its members to share common approaches to many global tensions. There's an on-going discussion within BRICS on matters such as countering terrorism, ensuring international information security, monetary and financial systems, technological breakthroughs, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Together, we can work to implement these changes for the greater good.’

The academic track of international relations also has strategic importance. In this regard, Victoria Panova proposed creating an African scientific database, which scholars from BRICS countries and the Global South could access for their research. Combining the potentials of national and regional databases would strengthen the scientific sovereignty of the alliance and create conditions for the progressive development of national academic communities.

The discussion will continue at the national level in face-to-face and online formats for subsequent deliberation with representatives of BRICS countries.

The strategic session took place as part of the work of the BRICS Expert Council–Russia, established in implementation of the Russian Government's mandate at HSE University at the initiative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. The Council is responsible for providing information, analytical, and expert support, for the Russian BRICS chairship in 2024 and is engaged in expert, analytical, and scientific activities on relevant issues of political, socio-economic, and humanitarian cooperation within the alliance. The head of the BRICS Expert Council–Russia is HSE Vice Rector Victoria Panova.

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