French President Emmanuel Macron was denied a much anticipated invitation to the BRICS + (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit to be held in South Africa this August.1 The summit and bloc of nations known now as BRICS+ with the addition of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay serves as a gathering of the largest emerging economies in the Global South and the developing world.2 The reason why Paris would be so intrigued to have an invitation to this Summit is because they want to influence the outcome of the summit to reflect their and their allies interests.3 The allies being the G7 (the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan). The Group of seven fears the rise of BRICS as a rival bloc to their dominance of the global economy if the five major powers were to succeed.4 South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is all to ware of this and has denied even an observer role for Macron to attend the Summit.5
French sources said that Paris was unlikely to request an invitation formally, but felt it was enough for South Africa to know that if invited, Macron would accept. They noted that Macron was known to be a bridge-builder, linking disparate countries and groups in pursuit of peace and reconciliation. Pretoria’s suggestion that it needed a formal request from Paris and that the other BRICS member governments would have to be consulted almost certainly means Macron will not be coming to South Africa as a guest of the summit — Russia has already said it would be inappropriate for a Nato country to attend, and China would also very likely veto the idea. But that does not mean it is a bad idea. “It is an excellent idea to build such bridges among the three leading global plurilateral summit institutions – the G7, BRICS and the G20, to which the members of the first two all belong,” says political scientist John Kirton. He studies all three institutions in his capacity as director of the G7 Research Group, the G20 Research Group and co-director of the BRICS Research Group, all based at the University of Toronto in Canada. “Given Macron’s initiative in holding his recent Paris Summit to raise finance for the South, and its useful but inadequate results, it is all the more important to have him at the BRICS,” Kirton told Daily Maverick. (Emmanuel Macron’s wish to attend BRICS summit a tricky litmus test for South Africa)
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According to the City Press, even more CEOs and business leaders are scheduled to meet the president in the coming weeks to discuss the same matters. The paper said the business leaders from Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) met with the president this week to discuss the fallout of allegations made by the United States that SA had a hand in aiding Russia. The US embassy earlier this month alleged that South Africa had supplied ammunition to Russia – a country currently at war with Ukraine following an invasion of the latter in February 2022. The fallout of the allegations was immediate, tanking the rand and putting many multinationals on edge, fearing sanctions or being booted out of beneficial trade agreements with the United States – one of South Africa’s biggest trade partners. The South African government has denied the allegations. It has launched an independent investigation into the matter, all while insisting it is neutral and not aligned with any side in the conflict. Despite what the government says, however, markets, Western nations and business leaders are simply not convinced, as statements, utterances, and even policy standpoints from the African National Congress (ANC) lean firmly into pro-Russia territory. (Business leaders send a stern warning to Ramaphosa)
France is no more popular in the developing world that the United States and Britain. It could not directly request an invitation to the Summit as an observer, because Moscow and Beijing are likely to oppose it. Even Brazil and India which would have no enmity towards France would object. Russian President Vladimir Putin who is waging a relentless war against the neighboring country of Ukraine and faced a coup down by a former close member of his inner circle Yevgeny Prigozhin of the Mercenary group Wagner is highly suspicious of Macron’s request for an invite to the summit with France being a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Also in terms of building trilateral relations between the BRICS, the groups of twenty and seven this has already being shattered. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed upon it, it has all but severed relations with the Western Powers. The G 20 is supposed to serve as a bridge between the major economies of the developing and the developed world but that has now being ruined by Russia’s unilateral war in Ukraine.
France may be looking to reconnect the shattered relations between major regional and international powers but it should focus on ending the war in Ukraine by persuading Russia back to the negotiating table. This is the ultimate bone of contention for all the international parties involved. South Africa may have offered itself up as the platform for the emerging major economies of the planet but it will not allow Paris or any other significant Western power to interfere with its policies including the United States. France and its European allies should focus on limiting the onslaught on Ukraine by offering the Kremlin incentives to withdraw.