Saudi Arabia BRICS Membership: Balancing Benefits and Risks, By Zekeri Idakwo

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia BRICS Membership: Balancing Benefits and Risks

By Zekeri Idakwo

In January 2024, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially announced its membership of BRICS, an international economic bloc that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The BRICs intergovernmental organisation was founded in 2009 by Brazil, Russia, India, and China. South Africa joined the bloc in 2010. On 1 January, 2024, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also joined the organisation. The body held its first summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

The stated objectives of BRICS include economic cooperation and trade among member countries, the promotion of sustainable development and inclusive growth, and the facilitation of political cooperation and mutual understanding. These goals have guided the organization’s activities and initiatives since its founding.

Similarly, the BRICS alliance is built on the principles of non-interference, equality and mutual benefits. These principles guide the organisation’s approach to economic, territorial, and political disputes. The alliance also focuses on three main pillars: political and security cooperation, economic and financial cooperation, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

China, Saudi Arabia’s largest oil customer, has reportedly been a vocal proponent of expanding BRICS as a means of balancing power with Western countries. While the exact details of the potential expansion are still being discussed, China has expressed strong support for Saudi Arabia’s entry into the economic bloc.

Saudi Arabia’s admission into BRICS comes at a time of alleged heightened geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, and China’s growing influence in the Kingdom. With Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich economy and China’s growing economic power, the entrance could significantly change the dynamics of the global economy.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s historical ties to the United States, the Kingdom has been pursuing its own strategic path, driven by concerns that the U.S. is less committed to its security than in the past. As China’s influence in the region grows, Saudi Arabia may seek to diversify its geopolitical partnerships to secure its own interests. This may include closer cooperation with BRICS countries, such as Russia.

Specifically, by joining BRICS, Saudi Arabia would stand to gain several things. First, it would give the country greater access to the growing economies of the BRICS nations. Second, it would help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil and gas. Third, it would strengthen the country’s relationship with China, one of the world’s largest economies. And finally, it would give Saudi Arabia a stronger voice on the world stage.

The Kingdom’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, in August, before the January joining date, said the BRICS group was “a beneficial and important channel” to strengthen economic cooperation.

However, there are a few potential risks associated with Saudi Arabia joining BRICS. First, there is the risk of political and economic instability. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, and its government has been criticised for its record on civil liberties and human rights. There is also the risk of economic sanctions from the West, as BRICS is seen as a challenge to the current global economic order. Additionally, there is the risk of China’s growing influence in the region, which could potentially threaten Saudi Arabia’s security.

The expansion of BRICs to include Saudi Arabia and other nations marks a significant shift in global power dynamics. The new members bring diverse economies and cultural perspectives to the table, and their inclusion highlights the growing influence of developing nations. This shift will likely have far-reaching implications for global trade, politics, and culture.