Algeria's president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, hinted in early August that the North African country may apply to join BRICS, the bloc of emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Tebboune defined the group as "a powerhouse" at the economic and political level, key to distancing itself "from the attraction of the two poles". If confirmed, Algiers would follow in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, which are seeking to join Iran and Argentina as formal applicants for BRICS membership.
The Algerian leader took part in a summit of the bloc in June, a virtual meeting in which Russian President Vladimir Putin called on his counterparts to form a common front against the West following the isolation it has been subjected to by Washington and Brussels in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Algeria, like many other countries on the continent, refrained from condemning Russian aggression at the UN General Assembly, and maintains fluid relations with Moscow.
During the most recent visit to Algeria by the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister gave a positive assessment of the trade volume between Moscow and Algiers, which increased to 3 billion euros in 2021. According to World Bank (WB) data from last April, Algeria's GDP may return to its 2019 level this year. Moreover, the organisation maintains that Algerian gas demand could "benefit" from the diversification implemented by the European Union to the detriment of Russian supplies, a point of friction with the Kremlin.
Algeria meets "a good part" of the requirements for BRICS membership, according to Tebboune. The latest projections are rosy, outlining an increase in state revenues of more than 26 per cent by 2022. However, Algeria's economic fabric remains dependent on hydrocarbons, the export of oil and natural gas, which currently accounts for more than a third of GDP. By joining the bloc, Algeria could reap significant benefits in a number of sectors. The group has built a series of multilateral institutions that allow it to distance itself from international organisations, such as the New Development Bank, based in Shanghai.
The BRICS form an economic alliance, but also a political partnership, which rivals that of the West. However, there are major differences between them, which do not seem to pose a threat to the stability of the bloc. On the economic front, China is leading the way with a growth rate that is more than double that of the other members of the group. Politically, the regimes are disparate: Brazil, India and South Africa are liberal democracies, while China and Russia are authoritarian systems. Algeria is also authoritarian.
The BRICS accounts for almost a third of the world's GDP, and is currently home to 42% of the global population. Algeria, a power in the Maghreb thanks to its vast energy resources, would make a quantitative leap in the bloc, but its accession seems far from imminent, even less so given the convulsive geopolitical context. The most optimistic reports indicate that membership could come as early as 2023, although enlargement must first be agreed by all members. South Africa was the last to join the club in 2011, christened BRICS by the well-known Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill.