Kenya’s Bold Move: Exploring BRICS Membership on the Horizon?

BRICS is an acronym representing a group of 5 economies that have shown massive growth and potential over the years. Consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, they have shown great ambition on the global stage. The term was coined and used in 2001 by Jim O’Neill, a Goldman Sachs economist.

Their commitment and excellence have inspired and influenced other nations to identify with and associate with their models, beliefs and aspirations.

Kenya's Bold Move: Exploring BRICS Membership on the Horizon?
Kenya’s Bold Move: Exploring BRICS Membership on the Horizon?

Elsewhere, global geopolitical dynamics have gradually changed, giving BRICS a lot of relevance and potential to grow and become more. For a long time, the world has witnessed the dominance of the West, led by the USA. Many countries have long identified socially, culturally, politically and economically with the West. This is evident in many areas, such as trading and commerce.

The dominance of The West has yielded discontentment among many countries who believe they need to get the best deals in their associations and cooperation with such countries. Many cry foul in trade arrangements, exploitation, interference with their sovereignty, cultural interference, meagre contribution to development projects, conditional loans and grants, among other allegations. This has given power to alternative global centres of power like BRICS.

BRICS capitalises on these allegations to drive a front toward offering solutions to these problems. Its member countries believe they offer the required balance in geopolitics, fairness and neutrality that would work a long way in making level the playground for many countries. As a result, there have been inroads to countries viewed as neutral to sway their support of the opposing sides.

Having been affected by colonialism, Africa is not left behind. While many countries still align with the West, some crucial countries have supported BRICS, and others have even joined it. These include Ethiopia and Algeria. With the new government in place, Kenya is one of the countries in the African continent that was highly anticipated to join the faction, particularly during the recent BRICS Summit in August 2023, where countries like Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Iran joined. This article answers the question: Will Kenya apply to join BRICS Membership or not?

Kenya's Bold Move: Exploring BRICS Membership on the Horizon?
Kenya’s Bold Move: Exploring BRICS Membership on the Horizon?

Missed South Africa’s Russia Summit

Even though many indications depict that Kenya is likely to apply to join BRICS, a recent development that saw President William Ruto skipping the South Africa BRICS Summit 2023 cast doubts. It is reported that Kenya’s President did not attend the event even though he was invited. He was, however, seen at a local function in Nakuru. One could read too much in this and imagine that the President opted not to go because he doesn’t subscribe to the beliefs of BRICS or maybe he is not yet ready to take a side, having been elected just a year ago. This remains a mystery to many.

Close Ties with The West

Over the years, Kenya has had a close working relationship with the West. There has never been a significant event that one can point to that may break this relationship. Even though it is a subject of argument, Kenya has benefited from the West on a vast scale. Other than grants and donations, the country enjoys an excellent trading relationship. As it stands, the USA is the second largest Kenya trading partner in terms of trade volume. This is only second to Uganda, her immediate neighbour. Such ties can never be wiped away easily when no significant adverse event exists between the countries.

New Currency

Kenya will likely join BRICS to have more control over her trading activities. Even though the dollar has fallen equally, the Kenyan shilling against it has shown its worst depreciation rate ever, trading at about 144 from about 100 a few years ago. Up to recently, Kenya used the US Dollar to make purchases and pay loans. This only means continued use of the dollar makes trading and loan repayment more expensive for the country.

While speaking during the Second Ministerial Retreat on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in Djibouti, Kenyan President William Ruto advised using individual local currencies to encourage intra-African trade among member countries. He observed that this would boost regional business.

BRICS plans to turn this around by either allowing individual member currencies in trade between involved countries or introducing a new currency that will rival the US Dollar at fairer terms. Other agendas included BRICS Bank and BRICS expansion.

While joining BRICS, Iran President Ebrahim Raisi unveiled his ambitious intention to rebuild his country’s economy by, among other things, dropping the US dollar in conducting business. The US dollar is believed to be used in more than 80% of the global international trade. Discussions for a possible new currency for BRICS members were recently done in South Africa, and talks are expected to continue. This is believed to be a game changer for the country.

Wider Market

BRICS member countries make up to 3.24 billion people, constituting at least 40% of the world’s population.  New members continue to send applications to join it. It thus means that BRICS will become the world’s largest market. The group will likely make serious advancements with properly coordinated commercial and economic activities. Many member countries are impressed with the BRICS and-vocation of free trade without rivalry-motivated sanctions as alleged against the West. Kenya would surely wish to be part of such an arrangement.

Country’s Sovereignty

Kenya’s President William Ruto campaigned and was elected on an anti-external interference platform. He believes in countries’ Independence and Sovereignty, economic liberation, equal partnerships approach to international engagements, and opportunities for all. In his address during the France Africa Summit, he was keen to articulate that Africa does not need favour from The West or anybody else but a partner who treats her with respect and dignity.

Africa does not need peanuts and handouts but meaningful developments through arranged equal partnerships and trade. As observed in its policies, BRICS seems the closest to providing this. It operates on a sovereignty policy whereby individual member countries’ sovereignty is respected. Their leadership, culture, and position on several issues are not a subject of determination by BRICS but by the respective countries themselves.

Whether Kenya will apply to join the BRICS membership is still being determined. However, if the above reasons are anything to go by, your guess is as good as mine; we may soon see the country applying to join BRICS. At the same time, looking at both sides of the coin, it is hard to underestimate any reason that may keep her closer to the West.

The level of trust for countries in BRICS is lower compared to the West. Besides, it may appear unnecessary, particularly to a new regime that still battles opposition threats and domestic problems. It won’t be a surprise to see the country ignoring the debate and remaining relatively more neutral for some time until taking a stand is essential.

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