Kenya watches as BRICS gears up for expansion

Central African Republic Presidnent Faustin Archange Touadera (left), Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso (left), Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique (right) and Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang (right) attend a meeting during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on August 24, 2023.

Photo credit: AFP

What is Kenya's stance on the BRICS expansion? Unknown, for now.

But Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua told Nation.Africa on Thursday that he would be outlining Nairobi's position on how Kenya intends to work with the 'global south' bloc.

Mutua was expected to speak at the BRICS Plus event, a sidelines meeting between members of the bloc - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - and partners mostly from the global south on "commitment to the principles of sustainable development between BRICS countries and Africa". 

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua (second left) and other African leaders on the sidelines of BRICS on August 23, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

The event came as BRICS declared its intention to expand, inviting Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Argentina, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to join the bloc.

These six countries are expected to "become full members of BRICS from 1 January 2024", according to the BRICS summit declaration on Thursday.

Some 40 countries had applied to join, but these six had been publicised as possible entrants. Kenya has not confirmed its application, although it has expressed similar views to BRICS on geopolitics.

"Kenya has become a major player on the international stage because of our pan-African spirit, our democracy and our push for a fair international financial system that supports people's development and frees nations from the yoke of debt bondage," Mutua argued on Thursday.

The BRICS summit revisited some of these issues. It stressed the importance of

of promoting the use of local currencies in international trade and financial transactions between the BRICS and their trading partners.

"We also encourage the strengthening of correspondent banking networks among BRICS countries and the enabling of settlements in local currencies."

Finance ministers and central bank governors are expected to examine the issue of local currencies, payment instruments and platforms and report back by the next summit. But their decision may take longer as a task force looking at the issue for the bloc assesses the implications.The local currency issue is a slight step back from Russia's call for a complete ditching of the US dollar, which Moscow says Washington has abused its economic hegemony.

But early advocates of de-dollarisation, such as President William Ruto of Kenya, have now stopped criticising the use of the dollar in international payments, a sign of how delicate the balance between West and East is for Nairobi.Instead, these leaders are now calling for simpler payment systems, including localised platforms for countries in Africa, as a way of reducing settlement costs.BRICS itself said it was committed to safer, cheaper and more reliable alternative payment systems, but would wait for experts to assess the impact or cost of setting up such parallel moves.Meanwhile, the bloc said it is committed to "inclusive multilateralism" and has now drafted guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures for the BRICS expansion process.Until Thursday, South Africa was the last African country to join BRICS. BRICS expects to expand further in the future.

Russia will host the next summit in Kazan in 2024.