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The backstory: BRICS, born in 2009 as an economic bloc with Brazil, Russia, India and China as its founding members (initially called BRIC), expanded in 2010 with the inclusion of South Africa, forming BRICS. The idea was to unite developing nations, challenging the dominance of North America and Western Europe. Think of it as a counter to the Group of Seven (G7) club, which includes the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the EU. Every year, BRICS holds a summit where these countries collaborate for global influence and economic progress. The upcoming summit in October is set to take place in Kazan, Russia.
More recently: Last August, BRICS invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to join. But Argentina declined, and later, in January, the Minister of Commerce for Saudi Arabia made it clear that the country hadn't officially joined BRICS but had just been invited.
The development: Last week, South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor confirmed that Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have officially joined the BRICS bloc. According to Minister Pandor, the interest doesn't stop there – 34 other countries have shown interest in joining the group. Russia has taken over the rotating chairmanship this year, and it's accepting applications from more countries interested in being part of BRICS.
Pandor highlighted that finance ministers are working on using local currencies for transactions within BRICS to move away from a trade system dominated by the US dollar. The goal is to fix what they see as problems with the current payment system, calling it "unfair and costly." The group is also interested in reforming the UN Security Council.
"With respect to the BRICS confirmations, five out of the six have confirmed. That is Saudi Arabia, UAE, Ethiopia, Iran ... and Egypt," said South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor at a news conference last week. "Argentina has written to indicate that they will not act on this successful application by the previous administration to become full members of BRICS and we accept their decision."
"This membership expansion is historic," said Chinese President Xi Jinping last year. "It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries."
"BRICS is not competing with anyone," said Russian President Vladimir Putin last year.
"BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous," said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa last year. "We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow."