August 25, 2023

Ethiopia's Path to BRICS: A Strategic Respite from Sanctions and Debt Woes

City: Addis AbabaEconomyNewsCurrent Affairs

Amidst economic hardships, the New Development Bank emerges as a beacon of hope for Ethiopia

Avatar: Mikiyas Alemu
By Mikiyas Alemu

Mikiyas Alemu is a Journalist and Junior researcher at Addis Zeybe.

Ethiopia's Path to BRICS: A Strategic Respite from Sanctions and Debt Woes

In a landmark move on August 24, Ethiopia received the green light to join the BRICS consortium under the auspices of Global South Cooperation. As the 15th summit unfolds in Johannesburg, South Africa, BRICS extended invitations to six new member nations from a pool of over 40 interested countries.

Ethiopia's bid for BRICS membership is widely regarded as a strategic avenue for the nation to access untapped markets and attract investments, harnessing the potential of BRICS's developmental initiatives. Strengthening ties with major emerging economies, mainly through engagement with the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), forms the crux of Ethiopia's ambitions.

While historical ties have bound Ethiopia closely to Western nations, particularly the United States, recent years have witnessed a cooling of these relationships. The Ethiopian government's human rights violations and approach to the Tigray War have soured ties with the West. This deterioration culminated in sanctions from the United States and reductions in aid from the European Union, casting shadows on Ethiopia's economy and straining Western relations.

In a contrasting trajectory, Ethiopia's deepening alignment with China has raised Western eyebrows, prompting allegations of Beijing leveraging its economic prowess to exert undue influence.

In this climate of uncertainty, existing tensions are projected to persist. Against this backdrop, BRICS's timely decision to extend invitations to Ethiopia, Argentina, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates amplifies the strategic significance.

A seasoned economic and financial expert, requesting anonymity, asserts that BRICS counterbalances the prevailing global monetary policy shaped by Western free market ideals. According to this expert, BRICS endeavors to address the issues perpetuated by the World Bank and the IMF. Developing nations, burdened by Western trade-centric paradigms, have turned to BRICS as a platform for independent economic management.

Although Ethiopia's engagement in various regional and international forums holds value, experts view its entry into the BRICS consortium as an invaluable opportunity for a developing nation. The expansion of BRICS is envisaged to foster collaboration among emerging economies, empowering them with a collective voice on the global stage. Shared objectives of driving economic growth, reforming the global financial framework, and mitigating poverty and inequality underscore the significance of this alliance.

Amidst ongoing internal conflicts that have tarnished Ethiopia's image in the eyes of potential investors, BRICS emerges as a catalyst to restore the nation's reputation. Indeed, Ethiopia's inclusion within BRICS is celebrated as a diplomatic triumph for the current administration's five-year tenure.

Experts highlight that while the New Development Bank isn't designed to entirely supplant the World Bank's and the IMF's roles, it offers an alternative avenue. Emphasizing this point, they underscore that the NDB doesn't mirror the IMF's support functions. Furthermore, BRICS institutions are not intended as replacements for Western counterparts but rather as complementary structures for developmental cooperation.

Though BRICS member nations, including China, have traditionally anchored their economies in US bonds, a concerted de-dollarization campaign seeks to mitigate the influence of Western dominance and associated risks, such as sanctions.

However, Ethiopia's BRICS membership is not devoid of potential risks. As a nation historically inclined towards non-alignment diplomacy, friction with the US and Western powers may ensue. The pressure to align with BRICS policies, which may not invariably align with Ethiopia's best interests, presents a consequential challenge.

In a nutshell, Ethiopia's strategic pivot towards BRICS membership is a gateway to economic stability and diversified diplomatic affiliations. This trajectory can potentially redefine Ethiopia's diplomatic positioning, economic trajectory, and global influence.