At the end of a long feverish wait, the verdict has just fallen in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the 15th summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) which was held from 22 to 24 August: Algeria, which had every reason to harbor high hopes, will not yet have the privilege of joining the club of emerging and non-aligned countries, preference having been given, for the time being, to six new incoming: Iran, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Oscillating between legitimate disappointment, enlightened realism and renewed hope, victorious over any ordeal, Soufiane Djilali, one of the major players in Algerian political life, who has presided over the destinies of the Jil Jadid (New Generation) party for more than ten years, deciphers on Oumma the main reasons for the resetting of Algeria.
He draws the main lessons from this relative setback, which will undoubtedly have, in any case, he sincerely hopes, the effect of a powerful salutary electroshock.
What, in your opinion, are the main criteria that led the five BRICS member states not to accept Algeria’s candidacy this year, as part of their enlargement policy?
As everyone knows, the four current and future giants of the world economy, China, India, Russia and Brazil, to which South Africa joined later, created this group to consolidate their new positions on the international scene and to cooperate with a view to rebalancing economic relations with the G7 countries.
The initial objective was therefore to set up trade relations that were more favorable to emerging countries and more generally to countries of the South.
Of course, each of these countries has its own interests in mind. The BRICS could have continued quietly on their way to make their way to better positions in the world rankings, but geopolitics and geostrategy have accelerated events.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has entered a new phase. The West, under the leadership of the United States, largely fueled this conflict, thinking it was weakening Russia. However, he made several miscalculations. The general embargo on Russia and especially the freezing of its assets in dollars ended up pushing a form of rebellion by non-Western countries against the unipolar system despite the fear of sanctions.
The narrative of the West against Russia appeared as sheer hypocrisy to the rest of the world. The swing of countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt towards China and Russia marked a very serious geostrategic turning point for the West. Not only was his authority already undermined with the failure in Afghanistan, but it was beginning to pose serious societal problems for countries still very attached to their traditions and religious principles, with these ideologies of transgender, LGBTism etc…
The West has seriously damaged its own image in what is now called the Global South and has provoked a reflex of preventive self-defense.
In this climate, Russia, China and India have seized the opportunity to boost their relations to the detriment of the USA and Europe, which has committed body and soul to military support for Ukraine. .
In this general climate, and to come back to your question, the criteria for joining the group have necessarily evolved.
Through the choice of the 6 new members, it should be noted that the Near and Middle East have just shifted towards the East. The beginnings of this reversal were there, with the settlement of the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a result, with the BRICS, no less than 4 Muslim countries, holders of the largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world and above all masters of the Arab-Persian Gulf, are joining the group.
The BRICS also support the conflict over the waters of the Nile, between Egypt and Ethiopia. Therefore, Egypt, the largest Arab country in terms of population, and Ethiopia, largely in vital alliance with China and seat of the African Union, are concerned. Add Argentina to balance the representatives of the South American continent and the circle is complete for one or two years.
Clearly, the criteria were therefore not exclusively economic. Countries like Nigeria or Indonesia rely on this plan much more than Ethiopia.
Algeria was entitled to hope to be part of this first wave of BRICS reinforcements. It has come up against, I think, several unfavorable factors, the first being the economic standstill it has been doing for too long. Totally dependent on hydrocarbons, it is structurally fragile.
Its geographical position, although strategic, is currently a handicap: it is locked in a space in turmoil. The opening it could offer to Africa is currently blocked by the security instability on all of its borders.
Objectively, Algeria’s membership of the BRICS could not bring any immediate added value to the group.
Compared to the six new entrants, what are Algeria’s strengths and weaknesses?
I don’t think it should be looked at that way. If each of the six countries were to be taken out of context, the judging criteria would change completely. For example on the total GDP or per capita, Algeria is better than Ethiopia.
Demographically, our contribution would have been much greater than the UAE or Saudi Arabia. Being debt-free would have been a clear advantage over Argentina, whose economy is plagued by inflation and debt.
I therefore believe that each country must be seen in the general context of the balance of power imposed by a transition from a unipolar world to a multipolar one. In this game and for the moment, Algeria did not correspond to the current round.
Last year, President Tebboune showed his confidence in Algeria’s membership of the BRICS, convinced that 2023 would be “successful”. Is staying (still) at the gates of this club of emerging economies a failure or, on the contrary, will it be a salutary electroshock to fine-tune a real strategy of economic diversification, freeing itself from dependence hydrocarbons?
It is healthy for a President of the Republic to have ambition for his country. Probably, the communication was too optimistic and therefore the backlash was harsh. But this failure, relative of course, should be an opportunity for Algeria to do some serious introspection.
The country needs deep reforms. We must quickly modernize the state, remove obstacles to the functioning of the economy in general, reduce bureaucracy, fight against corruption, update our banking system, set up a stock exchange worthy of the name, get rid of the management of a multitude of loss-making entities that only absorb the energy of those responsible.
I would have liked to see the erection of a structure responsible for selecting our human resources, according to criteria of merit and competence… I am not going to list a whole program here, but the essential thing is that an awareness must lead us to overcome our shortcomings and overcome our mistakes.
In this regard, Russia or China, in addition to our Western partners, can bring us a lot in these areas. Our bilateral relations are excellent. This is the time to enjoy.
In the short and medium term, will this non-adherence to the BRICS have geostrategic repercussions for Algeria?
No, I don’t believe so. Despite all the criticisms that can be made, the Algerian power is constant in its major choices. There is no need to change them at the geostrategic level. We must now prepare to take the next step: how to make Algeria attractive?
We have immense possibilities and potentialities. Europe is our neighbor and may need us for balanced cooperation. Algeria’s desire to join the BRICS should not mean a break with the West. On the contrary, Algeria can be this intermediary at multiple levels between the East and the West. Keeping all the friends and winning new ones, that’s our motto. Algeria must concentrate on its own needs, on its strengths. This is why a vision of the future and a realistic projection must be our leitmotif.
You reacted to this non-membership of Algeria by qualifying it as a “misadventure” and by advocating “opening up to reality”. Does this mean that Algeria has been lulled into illusions and that the system of “good governance” that you question is primarily responsible?
Yes, we are in fact great sentimentalists, we operate a lot on affect. The colonial wound is very deep in the national psyche. There is a deep fear of the stranger. We inherit a land that has been continually coveted.
Our political system, generated by the independence revolution, is still very closed. The spirit of secrecy, so necessary during the war, has crystallized into a mentality of mistrust. This self-enclosure has prevented Algeria from flourishing, from making more effective and more rational choices. We need a deeply patriotic political regime, attached to the sovereignty of the country in the noble sense of the term, but also open, subtle and daring.
The new generations have a much less traumatized memory. They are educated and capable of great things. They must be supervised and given the opportunity to assume responsibilities within an institutionalized and regulated framework.
Through these few words, I want to challenge the conscience of my compatriots to tell them that it is time to think about building this country, whose land has been watered by too much blood. We must decide once and for all: do we want to catch up with the convoy of the world or do we want to remain assisted, whose dream is limited to phantasms? I believe, however, that our time has come. We have to seize it!
Comments collected by the Oumma editorial staff