The notable rising of a select group of developing countries paves the way for new multilateral structures in global governance, like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). The Rise of the BRICS in Africa: The Geopolitics of South-South Relations by Pádraig Carmody explores the observable engagements and impacts of the BRICS countries in Africa, within the context of their new globalization models and South-South relations. In Carmody’s book, different globalization strategies of the BRICS powers in Africa are analyzed in individual chapters. The book is structured this way because the five BRICS states have different economic structures, historical legacies, ideologies and interests.
Carmody states in the introduction of the book that the increasing influence of BRICS makes the five countries more vocal in their demands for change in global governance and geopolitics dominated by the West. According to Carmody, the BRICS’ rising influence plays a prominent role in their engagement with Africa, as a new “South Space” phenomenon. This original South Space concept refers to an imaginary region, “defined by history, material flows, and purportedly more equal and less exploitative social relations than those characteristics of North-South relations” (p. 11). Based on changes in global governance, the “new” South Space is characterized by cooperation for mutual development, win-win strategies, emphasis on sovereignty, and non-interference. The author also claims that understanding the cultural dimensions of the BRICS powers’ rise in Africa is a sine qua non for understanding South-South relations or even the South Space itself. The remaining five chapters of the book are organized around these arguments by examining each BRICS power individually in relation to their different globalization strategies in Africa.
Carmody’s second chapter explains China’s globalization model in Africa through a case study of Zambia. At first, readers might wonder how Zambia could clarify the whole Chinese engagement in Africa on its own. Yet the book is partially successful in making its argument; the case of Zambia demonstrates Chinese “flexipower” (p. 33) on the continent, which includes soft power elements and a “flexeconomy” (p. 6) approach, which means no conditionality and no strings attached in Sino-African relations. Therefore, China’s and BRICS’ model in Africa has been perceived as a new chance for African development and an alternative partnership for the continent in order to counterweight the Western conditionality. In this chapter, China’s special economic zone in Zambia points to a new form of geo-governance: “a new hybrid type of globalization in action which potentially brings together both direct state capital and private resources, finances, markets and labor from different parts of the world” (p. 38). Furthermore, the case study displays certain negative aspects of Chinese engagement in Africa. One of these is poor working conditions. Another is that Africa still mostly exports primary products, while globalization still serves the interests of powerful states. A limitation of the case study of Zambia is that it does not present satisfying information about cooperation and competition between China and other powers in the continent, such as Sino-American rivalry, in the framework of counter-leadership discussions.
The following chapter, “South Africa: Another BRIC in the Wall?” addresses South African geo-governance and its influence on the continent. Carmody describes South Africa as a junior partner and an entry point to Africa for the BRICS states. After the fall of the apartheid regime, South African companies have concentrated their investments in Sub-Saharan Africa in a variety of areas, such as tourism, media and communication technology, as a geo-governance strategy. This chapter presents an original concept for the South African model in Africa, namely, “gregional” which refers to “attempts to balance global and regional interests to national ends” (p. 66). Although South African engagement with the continent might be generally ignored, this book gives some detailed and interesting information about the country by using some statistics on South Africa’s outward investments and their area of focus.
The forth chapter analyzes India’s engagement and globalization model in Africa with a case study of land grabbing in Ethiopia. Carmody focuses on the global land grab, which mostly shapes the Indian globalization strategy in Africa. In this section, attention is drawn to the local and global risks of the land grab, including displacement, inequality, vulnerability, poverty and further source of conflict for the future (p. 88). Indian engagement with Africa is frequently explicated in the literature as an issue based on India’s need for energy resources for the purpose of fueling its rapid economic growth. Carmody’s land grab discussion grants this book a distinctive characteristic and helps readers understand the potential conflicts, and resistance against both current and future Indian projects in Africa.
The fifth chapter points out the primary factors and interests of Russia’s engagement in Africa. Russian President Vladimir Putin uses energy as the ultimate strategic weapon, and prioritizes the acquisition of African energy resources in order to ensure Russian economic and political development, as well as the reconstruction of Russia’s great power status (p. 95). This chapter presents information about the investments of select Russian companies and their area of focus in Africa, as a place of opportunity and expansion for them. Carmody claims that Russia leverages its relations with the former socialist countries in Africa, such as Angola and Ethiopia, indicating that the historical ties and cultural dimension of the past continue to play an important role in Russia’s globalization strategy on the continent. Carmody also fishes out a paradox in the Russian strategy: Russia is both a leading actor in arms export to the continent, and at the same time is active in peacekeeping operations in Africa.
The final chapter investigates Brazil’s rising role in Africa. The driving force behind Brazil’s engagement with the continent mostly has to do with economic and political aims. The cultural dimension dictates that historical ties and affinities bring Brazil into prominence in Africa, especially in the Lusophone parts of the continent. The geopolitical dimension of Brazil’s strategy in Africa involves soft-balancing of American power by building alliances on the continent. The soft power elements of Brazil’s strategy, and its emphasis on South-South cooperation practices play a significant role in Brazil’s success. However, in spite of being the most successful among the BRICS powers, Carmody claims that Brazil will remain a secondary power in Africa, except perhaps in Lusophone areas.
In addition to providing individual analyses of the five countries, Carmody attempts to find some similarities in BRICS engagements with Africa. For example, each member pursues a multi-vector foreign policy aiming at economic growth; each government has domestic political concerns; each uses soft power elements. The author also draws attention to some interesting points, such as the BRICS’ contribution to incumbent regime maintenance in Africa because of its non-interference policy. One of the missing points in this book is the lack of information and data about the collective power of the BRICS in Africa. In this context, the book does not explain or exemplify whether there is a single common reaction of BRICS institutionally against an event in Africa. Another shortcoming concerns South-South cooperation. Actually, it is difficult to find fulfilling information or examples of cooperation between the BRICS countries in South Space, or any explication of the rivalry between the great powers in Africa, a factor which is essential to understanding the BRICS engagement with the continent. These criticisms notwithstanding, this book provides a general framework about the engagement of BRICS in Africa, and obviously makes an important contribution to the literature.