Many great novels of the past hundred years have been written by writers who were working or were domiciled away from their motherland.
It is assumed that distance from home offers the writer a certain amount of objective perspective.
In the Castle of My Skin is the first and much acclaimed novel by Barbadian writer George Lamming, which was originally published in 1953 and was written within the author’s first two years in London.
It has been hailed as the most searching description of Barbados.
VS Naipaiul’s Miguel Street published in 1959, is set during World War II on Miguel Street located in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago.
Naipaul was in London in 1955 when he conceived and wrote these linked short stories.
One can see that for Lamming and Naipaul, the writing comes out of looking back at a life and people that one has left behind in the homeland.
The current migration of young Africans from Africa to the West for economic reasons has given birth to a rich literary tradition that tries to open up the challenges and even the opportunities brought in by this mass movement.
I cannot help but see that in Diaspora literature there is an antagonistic relationship between the destination and the home left behind by the one who travels.
This is more closely related to the old but constantly resurfacing ‘centre – periphery’ theory.
Generally the western city is the centre and the home of those in the Diaspora is the periphery.
Leila Aboulela, Brian Chikwava, Andrew Chatora, Noviolet Bulawayo and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi are some of the African writers who write away from home (Africa) with different results.
The UK-based Zimbabwean writer, Brian Chikwava, won the Caine Prize for African writing, Africa’s highest literary award for his short story “Seventh Street Alchemy”. In February 2010 his debut novel, Harare North, won the Outstanding First Creative Published Work category in Zimbabwe’s National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA).
In March 2010 Harare North alongside Petina Gappah’s An Elegy for Easterly was among the books selected for the Orwell Prize longlist.
Written, far away from the writer’s homeland, just like, In The Castle of My Skin and Miguel Street, Harare North is the story of an anonymous young man who has travelled to Britain, partly in search of opportunity, partly to escape persecution at home.
He has heard in his native Zimbabwe that in ‘Harare North’ – the nickname for London – work is abundant and well-paid.
When he lands in Harare North, the unnamed protagonist carries nothing but a cardboard suitcase full of memories and a longing to be reunited with his childhood friend, Shingi.
He finds himself in Shingi’s Brixton squat where the inhabitants are struggling in various ways to make ends meet.
This is the story of a stranger in a new and unfamiliar land – one of the thousands of illegal immigrants seeking a better life in England – with a past he is determined to hide.
In fact, he’s planning to head back to Zimbabwe as soon as possible, if he has made the required pounds to bribe those who are pursuing him back home.
The group of people who make the narrator’s world live miserably. Shingi struggles and sometimes scavenges for food.
Sometimes he works as a toilet cleaner. The narrator digs trenches and cleans tables and floors in a food outlet.
Life in “Harare North” is not all roses as the migrants expected.
The novel has been celebrated for using an English language that tries to imitate the local languages of Zimbabwe.
The English language in this novel is consistently and evenly broken artistically and that is one of the things to remember about this novel.
At some point the nameless narrator describes the tenacity of the Zimbabwean president this way: “Comrade Mugabe is powerful wind; he can blow snake out of tall grass like it is piece of paper…Then when he drops it, people’s trousers rip as they scatter to they holes.” (pg.8-9).
And on restating his plans in the UK, the narrator says: “I just want to get myself good graft very quick, work like animal and save heap of money and then bang, me I am on my way back home.
Enough pound sterling to equal US$5 000 is all I have to make, then me I’m free man again.” (pg. 6).
There is also this hilarious passage: “Even while inside toilet I hear she talking to Paul about how, like many Zimbabweans who don’t know what else to do in the UK, I am only going to end up becoming one of them BBCs – British Buttock Cleaners – looking after old people that poo they pants every hour.”(pg.41).
Brian Chikwava was born in Bulawayo in 1972. Chikwava left for England in 2002 where he studied civil engineering at Bristol University whilst horning his writing skills by trying his hand on poetry and short stories.
Harare North (2009) is Brian Chikwava’s first novel. Chikwava won the Caine Prize for African writing in 2004 for his short story “Seventh Street Alchemy”.
Chikwava also has other short stories that have appeared in various short story anthologies such as “The Jazz Goblin and His Rhythm”, “Fiction” and “Zesa Moto Muzhinji”.
Below is the interview that I did with Brian Chikwava. I wanted to take him to the basics and find out how he is able to write far away from home.
I wanted him to locate himself in the space of his birth and the space that he writes from.
Memory Chirere: At the Oxford Harare North launch in May 2009, I asked you from the audience, “What do you anticipate to be the kind of response to your book back in Harare?” You said,
“Laughter.” Now, Harare has responded and you have won a NAMA award. Congratulations. I was in the audience during NAMA and there was a huge applause as somebody received the prize on your behalf. I didn’t know you had so many fans and readers in Harare. Any special messages?
Brian Chikwava: Was very pleasantly surprised and must thank the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe for the good work they are doing. Such surprises make writing a bit more bearable.
MC: To the reading public, you first appeared with the short story ‘Seventh Street alchemy’, in Writing Still, 2003. There is no trail of you before that. How were you made?
BC: I started off trying my hand not at fiction but visual art reviews. That was after I joined the short-lived Zimbabwe Art Critics Association. After learning how to write a review, I thought I may as well try the short story and poetry. I had to ditch poetry quickly because I feel shockingly well off what was acceptable.
MC: It is also reported that you were ‘once a member of the now defunct Zimbabwe Association of Art Critics’. What was all that about?
BC: The Zimbabwe Art Critics Association had the noble hope of getting more art enthusiasts to engage with art. Those who felt moved to try their hand at art reviews were given a guiding hand and sometimes with the help of Barbara Murray, then editor of Gallery Delta Magazine, ended up with their work in the Herald or the Daily News.
MC: It is said that you collaborated with some of Harare’s upcoming jazz musicians then. Who are these musicians and what instrument do you play?
BC: Oh yes, we did mess about trying overly ambitious experiments that we had to abandon in exhaustion. A number of the experimentally inclined people who are now scattered across the globe leapt in; the likes of ex-Luck Street Blues Pascal Makonese; Noble Mashawa, briefly of Andy Brown’s Storm; the long-suffering Luka Mukavele who kindly gave us use of his recording studio, and his Mozambican compatriot, drummer Suleiman Saide.
MC: You recorded and released ‘Jacaranda Sketches.’ What is this about?
BC: I sometimes think it was only a platform for trying out new things in the then new London environment. But for a number of reasons, I’m increasingly terrified of even listening to it now since it demonstrates to me how capricious good judgment can be – one year you think you have, and the next you are shocked by the choices you made.
MC: You are a Science major, writer and musician. Is this a mixed quest? Are you ambidextrous?
BC: Unfortunately not. But I am right handed but left footed.
MC: So far I have seen all your stories in group anthologies: ‘Seventh Street Alchemy,’ ‘Zesa Moto Muzhinji,’ ‘Fiction,’ ‘Dancing To The Jazz and His Goblin Rhythm’ (my favourite) and others.
What is your relationship with the short story form and should we expect an anthology?
BC: I’ve been thinking about an anthology but somehow feel terrified of making a start. That’s because I find stories a bit of a tight rope walk. Hopefully I will rediscover the courage.
MC: Harare North, your debut novel has been applauded for ‘experimenting with language’. Ikhide Ikheloa says you use ‘pretend-language,’ back in Harare, Irene Staunton says you use ‘patios’.
My students wonder what you wanted to achieve because “Zimbabweans are well known for their ability to speak English.” In what circumstances did you decide to abandon the standard English language you used in the short stories?
BC: I tried standard English and it just didn’t work. The manuscript read stilted and the character had inhabit. That’s when I thought of – is it Achebe, I can’t remember? – who talks about bending the English language in order to make it carry the weight of the African experience.
The language that I use in Harare North is not a true language in the sense that it is not spoken on the streets of Zimbabwe, but I believe it expresses the Zimbabwean sensibility better than standard English.
MC: Harare North has been referred to as being ‘fearlessly political’ and for being laugh-out-loud funny’. What did it take to maintain the various balances that one finds in this novel?
BC: I think you can properly inhabit a character, a lot of things fall into place and you cast aside the eye that constantly makes judgments and concentrate on only making it a decent piece of art.
MC: This might be too personal, but at how many points, if any, does your path and that of your main character come together?
BC: No, not at all. The story genuinely crystallised after I met an ex-Lord’s Resistance Army guy on the street. We had a chat and he told me how he missed his past life, how he missed holding his AK47. At first I thought it was all a joke but quickly realised he was serious.
More than anything I was struck by his stance, knowing how un-pc it is to confess to loving the LRA. So I thought, well, why not create a Green Bomber who comes to London and is just as unyielding in his beliefs.
MC: In Harare North the characters go through stubborn pride and ironically, shame and self-loathing too. Is this the psychology of exile?
BC: In the right dose, stubborn pride is good if one is an exile, I think. But what I also did not want to do is to fall into representing Africans in exile as objects of pity, which they commonly are in the media. As for self-loathing, I guess that can be the price one pays for a rigid approach to life.
MC: Again the students wondered whether you are saying home is better than exile in spite of the socio-political and economic challenges in Zimbabwe? In Harare North, the diasporans are clearly marooned.
BC: Yes, that message is missing because I could not do that without being didactic. But I also think that the question of home vs exile is complex and requires a nuanced approach.
MC: What have you learnt from doing and reading Harare North yourself?
BC: I’ve probably been demoralised to realize how much I’ll have to do before I can write a book that is anywhere near perfect.
Who will speak on behalf of Basotho?
A clash was reported to have taken place a few weeks ago between police officers, on the one hand, and an MP and his bodyguards, on the other, was always inevitable. It is a direct result of arrangements where people we have lent power to represent us in Parliament now use that power to come up with schemes by which they and their bodyguards should be exempted from equal treatment, and be treated differently from the rest us.
This conduct is anti-seMohlomi, and anti-seMoshoeshoe. And so are many other behaviours we have seen perpetrated by our MPs.
We can expect that those who behave this way will not stop at violation of road traffic laws but will go on to carry contraband in ‘MP’ registered vehicles, and claim exemption from police searches when confronted by the police.
The principle of ‘equality before the law’, and the principle that we should all be treated the same, is a fundamental requirement for the maintenance of social order. MPs who ignore, or violate, it are sources of social disorder. Such MPs have to be regarded as enemies of social order in Lesotho. They should bear in mind that they are opposing society when they oppose the police’s attempts to enforce the law.
We should all obey traffic laws. And, we should all stand in long queues for poor services at the Passport and Traffic Offices. Otherwise, if those we have voted into power use that power to exempt themselves and their bodyguards from poor public services, MPs will have no incentive and interest to work for improved quality of public service.
The failure by MPs and governments to address problems of poor public services is an important reason why everyday many Basotho cross into South Africa in search of better education, better medical services, and lower prices of basic necessities. That traffic includes cars which bear red registration numbers ferrying Lesotho public officials to South Africa for better services.
As always, MPs, Ministers, and other public servants will probably be exempted, or expect to be exempted, from the torment that comes with the new customs regime agreed by Revenue Services (SARS) and Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL), and implemented at RSA-Lesotho border posts. Exemption of officials and MPs will mean that they will have no interest, nor incentive, to lessen its toll on Basotho.
The new regime started early in August 2023. To educate travellers about it, the RSL staff at the Maseru border have been giving people leaflets that explain the new procedures.
Even before this new regime, and others that came before it, many people have always been suspicious that a lot of what people who enter Lesotho go through is not in the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) Agreement. For example, it is known that the Agreement is supposed to ensure that citizens of SACU member-countries do not pay tax on a similar item in more than one SACU country. In other words, citizens of SACU member-states should not be taxed twice, or more, for the same item within the SACU area.
But because of the bureaucracy that has been imposed on customs processes at the Lesotho-South Africa borders, many people fall victim to some bureaucratic detail, or other, and end up paying tax in South Africa and Lesotho for a similar item, or service.
In the new regime agreed by RSL and SARS, RSL officials tell us that we are supposed to stamp all receipts of value of M250, and above, at SARS. They say this while distributing a leaflet that says the threshold is M10 000.
For the M250 receipt to be stamped, you need to submit to SARS copies of pages of your passport showing your address in Lesotho, and showing dates on which you travelled to and from South Africa. The implication of this is that if you carry a South African passport you cannot bring groceries into Lesotho for reasons including the fact that Lesotho government cannot claim tax from South Africa on such goods. It is unclear what will happen to a South African tourists coming to Lesotho who might be refused permission to enter with their food.
As said, the requirement that we should stamp M250 receipts at SARS is not on the leaflet RSL officials are giving to travellers. Extraordinarily, RSL officials admit this.
So, at the expense of our time, and standing in receipt-stamping queues that will inevitably grow longer and longer, we are being forced to adhere to a requirement which is nowhere in the official papers.
Has the new regime been negotiated and agreed to by RSL officials alone, or is the government aware of the unreasonable measures that we have to comply with?
It must be said that, at least, for now, the RSL staff remain very helpful, and seem to acknowledge that requirements they are expected to enforce are unreasonable.
It seems nobody thinks of us when government and officials agree to onerous customs measures at our border posts. In part this is because, again, those we have lent power to represent us use that power to exempt themselves onerous procedures that they negotiate and agree to.
We need people who think of us when they negotiate customs and other agreements. Basotho need somebody who can speak on their behalf.
Prof Motlatsi Thabane
Developing close reading skills
One of the most important skills in adeptly dealing with comprehension-related questions lies in your acquisition and refining close-reading competencies and strategies. The word comprehend means to understand, to fully grasp the essence of a text. When you comprehend a text you will take in, as it were, all the elements of a text, you nibble in, to speak using metaphors, your teeth into the heart of the text. You savour the text, immersing yourself in the texture of the text.
Close-reading involves deep observation and critical analysis of a text or comprehension passage. Close-reading strategies demands that the reader of a text pick even the salient nuances of a text, he or she must take in all the hues and details of a text which are not mentioned directly in the text. This skill takes time to hone, but with constant practice and hard work, it can be done. Let’s do that in a practical way. We are going to focus on a very small extract depicting how one aspiring ironman trained rigorously to realise his dream and the social and emotional toll the training exerted on the man and his family and how, finally he won, much to the happiness and excitement of his family. Here is the extract, as you read, please focus on the use of language to create meaning and effect. Let’s try to discern the feelings of the writer when her husband, eventually became an ironman.
“Because it’s there,’ I’d snarl to anyone who dared question why any sane mortal would tackle an Ironman. I enjoyed mercilessly shaming his less-than-supportive business partner into recognising the potentially boundless benefits of Sam’s well-publicised adventure for their newly-established, fledgling travel company. A flurry of online articles described me as ‘a runner married to a triathlete’ – it took me a few moments to recognise our family and beam with immeasurable pride.
Our son missed having Dad around at the weekends, especially if he woke up after Sam had left to train on a Saturday when sometimes there were tears. But he got used to the different dynamic. He was given an ‘Ironman’ superhero toy as a birthday gift by some relatives and immediately started making it swim, bike and run! The poor child thinks that this is how normal families operate.
Having said all that, watching Sam emerge god-like from the water, power past us on his bike and rocket down the finishing chute, head held high as our kids cheered with the crowd – utterly incredible and intoxicating, one of life’s rare pinnacles of perfection. It had been an epic journey for all of us. I’m so glad we did it. And next year? Well yes, it’s my turn.”
Have you seen how this extract is written in a very captivating way; it colourfully depicts the writer’s feelings of extreme excitement and euphoria when Sam completed the race successfully. The words, “having said all that” are colourful and conclusive. Before these words were uttered, the narrator was expressing her dissatisfaction about Sam’s involvement in sport and how demanding it was emotionally, physically and financially. But, now, the words show that the success overwhelmed even the sentiments or expressions of dissatisfaction registered earlier. One can also see that the writer is overwhelmed by pride and celebration at the success of her husband and she and the entire crowd were immersed in an “intoxicating” experience. Beer intoxicates, so the writer uses this word as a word picture to graphically show the intensity and pervasive nature of the happiness generated by Sam’s victory — it is as if they were overdrunk with the sense of success and accomplishment. Sam’s win evoked all those rare moments in life when all seems to be perfect and in its place; that is why the writer used the words, “life’s rare pinnacles of perfection” just to express that.
Have you also noticed how the writer uses a lot of word pictures to describe her reactions about people’s views regarding her husband’s involvement in the ironman race? One such word, a word picture is “flurry.” The word explains the immensity as well as the amount of excitement and frenzy of publicity generated by Sam’s attempt to be the iron man. This word is apt in describing the writer’s admiration for her husband’s feat and the publicity and excitement generated.
Let’s now focus on another text, let’s focus on how the extract reveals why people hate snakes as a result of the misconceptions they have about them. But notice how the writer arguably writes to endear us to the world of snakes and some of their very positive attributes. Let’s nibble at the text of the extract.
“In the United States, for example, public outcry based on fear and misinformation recently halted a scientifically sound conservation plan for timber rattlesnakes. Another project at the same location that involved releasing eagles was embraced by the community. Rattlesnakes are no less important than eagles. In fact, they may help reduce the incidence of Lyme disease, which affects thousands of people each year, by reducing the number of rodents that harbour this disease. But emotions override facts, it seems, where snakes are concerned. Snakes play an integral role in maintaining balance in the ecosystem – in most ecosystems on earth, snakes can be both predator and prey. When a large prey-population attracts and sustains a large snake population, those snakes become prey for birds, mammals and even other snakes! As predators, snakes keep prey-populations in balance. Snakes provide an easy, environmentally friendly, free and natural pest-control service. But snakes are worth saving not because of what they can do for us, but because of who they are. Snakes share many behaviours with us, behaviours we value. They have friends. They take care of their kids and even their friends’ kids too. Want to help us change how people view and treat snakes? Visit the World Snake Day website.”
While you were still reading, I hope you saw that this is a really captivating text. It focuses on the misconceptions and lack of information we have about snakes, which information gaps lead us into hating snakes without reason. True, snakes are predatory but they also serve an important function in balancing the ecological balance.
Snakes are not that bad, too; and like us humans, they make friends, protect their young ones and the young ones of their friends. Pretty amazing to learn that snakes, too, have friends.
So the point is that there are a lot of falsehoods and misconceptions about snakes and their true habits and functions within the ecological sphere. Often times, they are shown to be cruel, bloody predators that kill in cold-blood. But snakes are also victims from birth and other creatures. Snakes are a natural means to curb diseases which are brought about by rodents. Thus, snakes help in maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Snakes are relational and friendly.
Let’s now hone close-reading skills a little more. In the following extract, the writer beautifully describes her experiences of meeting snakes in their natural habitats in the rainforest and her excitement of seeing quite an exciting array of species. As you read, focus on the writer’s reaction to what she saw and how she is alive to the beautiful scenery around her and she captures that.
“Three hours later, returning from the trek, I felt bubbles of amazement and wonder rising. I’d seen gliding lizards fly effortlessly between trees, intricate dragonflies of infinite varieties and delicately etched, golden frogs. The overcast sky, saturated to the brim, had poured down heavily, drenching the forest, its native creatures, and the handful of humans who happened to be there. Thereafter began the frenzy of activities and sounds that engulfs the woods after a good rain – rhythmic sounds, musical, coordinated and orchestrated, and pleasantly deafening. Ah! My brimming heart and soothed soul enjoyed restful sleep in the tent that first night. Bonfires and loud music are prohibited to avoid any disturbance to animals and hygienic common bathrooms (with hot-water facilities) were appreciated. Everyone was expected to wash their own plates and glasses after every meal. We were encouraged to separate organic waste into the respective dustbins before retiring each night. All inorganic waste went back with you.”
You have picked words which convey meaning so aptly and beautifully. I liked the expression and the choice of words. The phrase, “bubbles of amazement” is so colourful and this is a word picture which shows or reflects the intensity of the writer’s excitement and frenzy at experiencing the tranquil and pleasant experience of being in a rainforest teeming with a vast array of species.
Here we are! Mastering close reading skills is a journey, but an exciting one, which allows you to immerse yourself in the text and allows you to feel all the juicy aspects of the text, as it were.
Vuso Mhlanga teaches at the University of Zimbabwe. For almost a decade and half he taught English language and Literature in English at high school. Send your comments and questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The significance of BRICS for the African continent
In the pioneering work titled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” (Global Economics Paper No: 66), Lord Jim O’Neill, then Chief Economist at Goldman Sachs, introduced the term BRICs, referring to the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. These nations’ economies were experiencing rapid growth, fuelling discussions about their potential to collectively shape the global economy by 2050. In the spirit of this vision, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, and China convened for the first time in July 2006, on the sidelines of the G8 Outreach Summit in St Petersburg, Russia. This marked a pivotal moment in cementing the idea of forming a consortium of burgeoning economies.
Subsequently, the Foreign Ministers of these countries assembled in New York City in 2006 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly and embraced the term “BRIC” as originally coined by Lord Jim O’Neill. On June 16, 2009, the inaugural ‘BRIC’ Summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Later, South Africa was granted full membership in September 2010 during a BRIC Foreign Ministers meeting on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. This led to the alteration of the acronym to BRICS. Building on this progress, South Africa participated in the Third BRICS Summit in Sanya, China, on April 14, 2011.
BRICS is firmly anchored in the principles of mutual respect, sovereign equality, inclusivity, consensus, and strengthened collaboration. The foundation of BRICS rests upon three pivotal pillars: political and security cooperation, financial and economic collaboration, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. These pillars serve as a robust framework for guiding the alliance’s interactions and ensuring its enduring viability. This sentiment is particularly pronounced as the 15th BRICS Summit, slated for August 22-24, 2023, in Johannesburg, South Africa, convenes under the theme “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism.”
Drawing from the World Bank data from 2022, the combined population of the five BRICS nations stands at 3.27 billion, constituting 41.1% of the global population. These countries’ cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2022 is valued at 25.92 trillion, accounting for 25.8% of the world’s GDP. In contrast, Africa’s total population across its 55 countries is estimated at 1.4 billion, representing 17.5% of the global population. Africa’s overall GDP amounts to approximately US$3.0 trillion, contributing 2.7% to the global GDP.
The African Development Bank’s African Economic Outlook for 2023, underscores Africa’s abundant natural resources — oil, gas, minerals, land, sunlight, wind, and biodiversity —whose potential remains largely untapped and undervalued. The report highlights Africa’s trillion-dollar investment potential in the climate and green growth sectors, offering a promising avenue for private sector involvement.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) BRICS Investment Report for 2023 reveals that the BRICS economies collectively account for 18% of global exports and approximately $250 billion in foreign direct investment outflows. Notably, the BRICS nations have emerged as significant investors in Africa, with a particular focus on industrial and service sectors, as confirmed by the Africa Development Bank’s Briefing Note titled “Africa and the BRICS: A Win-Win Partnership?” (2003).
Moreover, the BRICS countries have expanded their presence on the continent in terms of foreign direct investment, outpacing traditional partners such as the United States and Europe. This emphasis on harnessing natural resources and boosting agricultural production is also underscored by the UN Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Report “BRICS/Africa Partnership for Development” (2014).
Leveraging their substantial economic potential, the BRICS nations are optimally positioned to support Africa’s aspirations under the AU Agenda 2063. These countries play a pivotal role in driving investments in natural resource beneficiation, manufacturing, and industrialisation across the continent. They also provide strategic impetus for enhancing productivity and competitiveness, especially within the agricultural sector, through consistent investment efforts.
The emergence of the BRICS New Development Bank offers an alternative to the Western-dominated multilateral financial institutions, which have historically contributed to Africa’s infrastructure development at a gradual pace. This bank holds the promise of financing comprehensive infrastructure projects across the continent, thereby enhancing connectivity through rail, maritime, air routes, and information and communication technology — an aspiration cherished by the African populace.
A symbiotic partnership between Africa and BRICS has the potential to elevate Africa’s status as a significant player on the global stage. This partnership extends to bolstering Africa’s role in global governance structures, including institutions like the United Nations and Multilateral Financial Institutions. The expansion of BRICS to encompass additional nations, including those from Africa, is poised to inspire African countries to assume greater responsibility for funding their sustainable development endeavours.
This approach empowers African nations to form alliances with developed countries that squarely address the continent’s priorities for sustainable growth and economic transformation. Most notably, the BRICS initiative lays the foundation for a multipolar world, contrasting the prevailing unipolar influence exerted by the US and the G7 countries (Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, UK, and the US). This envisioned multipolar world rests on principles such as mutual respect, sovereign equality, inclusiveness, consensus, and fortified collaborations. The International Monetary Fund, Economic Outlook (April, 2023) reveals that the population of the G7 countries is around 776.55 million representing 9.7% of the global population. The GDP for the G7 countries is around US$42.92 trillion representing around 30% of the world GDP.
In a recent interview with Africa Business in June 2023, Lord Jim O’Neill, the visionary behind BRICS, shared his perspective on the future of BRICS and its implications for Africa. He astutely remarked, “the notion that the group of seven ‘industrialised’ or ‘more developed’ or ‘early developed’ (G7) nations can single-handedly govern the world is disconcerting, given their diminishing share of the global GDP. Moreover, the G7 often finds itself aligned with the desires of Washington (US). How then can these select few address the world’s most pressing challenges? This predicament highlights the raison d’être behind my conception of BRICS: to advocate for a more effective global governance model than what the G7 offers.”
It is for these reasons that the enduring partnership between Africa and BRICS embodies a shared commitment to sustainable development, economic growth, and the transformation of global governance structures. The collaborative approach rooted in mutual benefit, respect, and a multi-polar perspective has the potential to reshape the global landscape, ensuring a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.
Advocate Batlokoa Makong is a seasoned diplomat currently working for the African Union. He writes in his personal capacity.
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