The economic and political strides made by Nigeria and South Africa in the 21st Century have drawn the attention of the world to them. In order to accelerate its goal of enhancing market access opportunities among other objectives to ensure growth as well as compete with G7, the club incorporated the South African state in 2010 when it realized the nation is an emerging power and could be a catalyst in pushing forward the BRIC agenda. Since investors appear to be quite attracted to states with larger prospects of growth, states who are looking out for similar states with interests to form clubs like BRICS are likely to cooperate with Nigeria as it has been projected to be suitable in the formation of clubs such as MINT -Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey-. We argue however that both Nigeria and South Africa could, if brought together in BRICS, facilitate progress in achieving the aims and objectives of the club. But what informed the clubs’ decision of incorporation of South Africa? This paper will the question and give more reasons why Nigeria’s inclusion is necessary.

Keywords: BRICS, Rising, Powers, Nigeria, South Africa.

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How to Cite:

HASHIRU, M. and TUFEKCI, O. (2018), ‘Putting the ‘N’ or Replacing the ‘S’ in the BRICS? Nigeria’s Rise as an Emerging Power’, Journal of Management and Economics Research, 16(3): 11-23.



Nijerya ve Güney Afrika, 21. yüzyılda hem ekonomik hem de siyasi olarak önemli ilerleme kaydetmişlerdir. Fakat G7’ye alternatif olmak için üyelerinin piyasalara erişimini kolaylaştırarak ekonomik büyümelerini garanti altına almayı hedefleyen BRIC 2010 yılında amaçlarını gerçekleştirmek için Güney Afrika’yı yükselen bir güç olarak görüp organizasyonun üyesi olarak kabul etmiştir. Bilindiği üzere yatırımcılar, büyüme potansiyeli yüksek olan devletlere özel önem verirken, BRICS benzeri oluşumlara ilgi gösteren devletlerin kendileri de bir MINT ülkesi olan Nijerya ile işbirliği yapma eğilimindedirler. Fakat Nijerya, BRICS’in amaç ve hedeflerinin gerçekleştirilmesinde Güney Afrika ile birlikte çok daha önemli bir rol oynayabilir.Tam bu noktada ortaya çıkan soru şudur: Neden organizasyon Nijerya yerine Güney Afrika’yı üye olarak seçmiştir? Bu soruya ek olarak, bu makale Nijerya’nın organizasyona katılımı gerekli mi sorusuna da cevap arayacaktır?

Anahtar Kelimeler: BRICS, Yükselen Güçler, Nijerya, Güney Afrika

  1. Introduction

Economist Jim O’Neill is credited for the coinage of “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) ten years ago. On 20th November 2001, he coined this acronym. Goldman Sachs economic research reports “The World Needs Better Economic BRICs”, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050” had several predictions which are believed to have provided a boost for the formation of BRIC. First BRIC summit was held on 6th June 2009 in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The second one in April 2010 and the third one in April 2011 were convened in Brazil and China respectively. When it comes to South Africa’s inclusion, it was admitted into the club in 2010 upon a unanimous agreement by the club of BRICs (Li et al, 2013: xvi).

The BRICS as a club aims at strengthening bilateral and multilateral relations among the member states. Moreover, it has embraced the strategy of contributing to increasing the economic competitiveness and growth of the economies of BRICS in the global arena. The BRICS is believed that it will have the potential of reshaping the global economy in near future since its recognition as centres of global growth has impact on global political and economic affairs. As a result, the club’s emergence is projected to limit or lessen the Western countries’ dominance in global affairs. Though the BRICS ability to turn around global governance will depend on their collaboration with markets in G20 and the “Next 11” club that are emerging, broadening its market spectrum to largely cover other prospective emerging markets in Africa could expedite the realization of its goal. It is even observed that the BRICS are dislodging western countries’ established associations with the African continent gradually.

Nigeria and South Africa for a period of time have been the two most powerful African states. Both have made important economic and political strides in the 21st century. Whilst South Africa dominates much of the southern and eastern parts of Africa in terms of development, Nigeria managed to become the most powerful economy of Africa with a GDP of $404 billion in 2016. However the club of BRICs that aims at enhancing market access opportunities among other objectives to ensure economic growth as well as become an alternative to G7, in 2010 decided to incorporate South Africa when it was identified as an emerging power that could help the group in realising its aspiration. This paper discusses whether it is time to add Nigeria to the group by hypothesizing that Nigeria has made some significant strides in its economic endeavour since 2014, has earned itself the title of the most powerful economy in Africa, and has been providing a better hub for further economic activities. In addition, the paper aims to answer two questions “why did the group choose South Africa and not Nigeria?” and “Is Nigeria’s inclusion necessary?” by adopting the review of literature as emphasis is placed on empirical and conceptual works on the subject.

  1. Nigeria’s Relationships with the BRICS countries

Trade between Africa and the BRICS has risen tenfold to $340 billion from 2002 and 2012. Meanwhile, BRICS intra-trades within the same period were $230 billion. Among the important partners of the BRICS in Africa, Nigeria is one of the significant investment and trade partners of the BRICS. Nigeria is ranked as the 29th-largest economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP, and the 23rd-largest in terms of purchasing power parity (Folarin et al, 2016). Nigeria is projected to be Africa’s fastest growing economy with an average growth rate of 4.2% per annum. Nigeria, like Brazil, Russia, and South Africa is gifted with resources. Russia, for instance, is one of the energy powerhouses while Nigeria is the largest crude oil producer in Africa (Ademuyiwa et al 2014:13).

In September 2005, Nigeria signed a bilateral agreement with Brazil to strengthen cultural and economic ties between the two rising powers. The value of trade between the two states in 2005 reached about $2 billion. The merchandise from Nigeria to Brazil between 2003 and 2005 increased from $1.5 billion to $5 billion. In addition, the total trade between the two states in the last four years reached $9.1 bn (PM News, 2017). Nigeria became the fifth highest goods exporter to Brazil since 2008 when it climaxed $8.2 billion in merchandise export. The bilateral relations between the two states also placed Brazil the second largest importer of Nigerian products worldwide (Alao, 2011:9).

Following the Medvedev’s visit to Nigeria in June 2009, several memorandums of understanding have been signed between two states in order to progress their relationships. As a result, Tte volume of trade grew from three hundred million to about 1.5 billion dollars in 2010 (Adetokunbo, 2017: 484). Yet, according to all indicators, Russia remains the smallest trade partner of Nigeria amongst all BRICS nations (Ademuyiwa et al 2014:16).

The Abuja declaration signed between India and Nigeria witnessed the promotion of trade, cultural and investment exchange between the two states. The trade between India and Nigeria by 2010 was about $10.7 billion. In addition, as of 2010 Nigeria became India’s largest trading partner in the African continent (Alao, 2011:18). India is now one of the biggest trading partners of Nigeria globally and Nigeria is the biggest trading partner of India in Africa with bilateral trade of 9.4 billion dollars in 2017 (Vanguard, 2018).

China’s strategy for Africa after the Cold War could be considered as the beginning of significant relations between many African states with China including Nigeria. China has formed a durable political alliance with Nigeria over the past few decades. And that alliance has yielded better results. According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, Nigeria was the most pro-Chinese country in the world, with 85 percent of Nigerians viewing Beijing’s influence in the world positively (Ramani, 2016).

  1. Nigeria vs South Africa

Though South Africa is comparatively the smallest member, its inclusion has several advantages for the achievement of the BRICS agenda. The invitation to BRIC has propelled South Africa to new heights. The opportunity granted by these rising powers has important implication to the South African state’s development. It implies that South Africa is recognised as a developing economy and the next growth giant which is the gateway to the African continent (Sandrey, 2013:42)

China is South Africa’s biggest trade partner, and South Africa is China’s biggest trade partner and top investment and tourist destination in Africa. In 2016, bilateral trade volume reached US $35.344 billion, with Chinese export up to US $12.853 billion and import of US $22.491 billion, more than 20 times that in 1998 when the two countries started their diplomatic relations (Hui, 2018). Thanks to the woven relationships between both states, China was influential in making sure South Africa was invited into the club. Yet, the admission of the South African state sparked another debate as some researchers would rather that more eligible states such as Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, South Korea and Nigeria (Sandrey, 2013:43). However while geopolitics played a role in encouraging the BRIC offer, economics provided the key incentive. It is acknowledged that South Africa’s selection was driven by the priorities of existing BRIC members, namely a need for geographic representation in the group (Brooks, 2011). Besides, the then Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu stressed that “the accession of South Africa will be conducive to the development of the mechanism as well as cooperation among emerging markets. The BRIC cooperation is one featured by harmony and stability, mutual benefit and win-win outcome as well as openness and transparency.” (Foreign Ministry Spokesperson’s Remarks, 2010). In addition, South Africa’s entry in the club shall add a value since it is the largest African economy says Anand Sharma, the Indian Industry and Commerce Minister (Africa Research Bulletin, 2011). That means that South Africa, among other candidates is more eligible even though the Chinese invitation appears to be touted by favouritism displayed by China and influenced by its special relations with it.

This article does not only seek to argue for the inclusion of Nigeria but rather investigates the motives behind the ascension of South Africa. By investigation, this article is not in any way calling for the discession of South Africa but will be using the reasons for accepting South Africa as rather reasons for including Nigeria. Poffenbarger et al have cited Frank (2003)

“The entrance of South Africa was a great political importance as it pushes the BRICS into a more cooperative direction as South Africa is the nexus for cooperation with other African states. Furthermore, as the largest economy in Africa and somewhat developed politically, South Africa makes more sense than the other best option Nigeria” (Poffenbarger et al: 2014: 98)

However South Africa is not any better than Nigeria both in politics and economics currently. South Africa is the country with little contribution in the BRICS and continues to shrink due to some political uncertainties and economic challenges. On the other hand, Nigeria, despite the political and economic setback, is showing some robustness in its economy. Though the competition between the two African states came to a halt when South Africa was invited, key circumstances that facilitated the inclusion of the South African state are disappearing. For instance it is mentioned in 2017 that South Africa is getting poorer as the world is getting richer (Huffington Post, 2017). This means that the economic robustness and favourable political atmosphere of the South African state is not like it was as the time it was included. Though the political atmosphere in South Africa is in a way above that of Nigeria, there have been several positive developments in Nigerian politics in recent times. For instance, Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the country appear to have been subdued. If this trend continues, the possibility that Nigeria’s economy will develop faster will be apparent since acts of terror have negatively affected productivity for some time now. Though the political atmosphere in South Africa is in a way above that of Nigeria, there have been several positive developments in Nigerian politics in recent times. For instance, Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations in the country appear to have been subdued. If this trend continues, the possibility that Nigeria’s economy will develop faster will be apparent since acts of terror have negatively affected productivity for some time now.

  1. Inclusion of South Africa instead of Nigeria

While Nigeria and South Africa are the most powerful economies in the African continent, both are considered as the two most significant regional and military powerhouses of the continent, as well (Odubajo & Akinboye, 2017:11). Therefore, both states’ ability to deeply engage in bilateral relations has relevant economic consequences for Africa since while South Africa leads in areas of technology, Nigeria has the larger human resource pool and market potentials for investments. Accordingly, in June 2002, Nigeria became the South Africa’s largest African partner in trade and the trade volume reached $4 billion in 2016 (Premium Times, 2017).

However, South Africa offers more soft power benefit because of personality of Nelson Mandela and the democratic rebirth of the South African state when it dealt with apartheid. Therefore, it is highly believed that South Africa’s inclusion would facilitate the BRIC strategy due to its regional power prominence. It is also believed that the South African state has the ability of influencing other African states for a larger BRIC access. This means that South Africa would be a gateway for the BRIC to have trade ties with other African nations. In other words South Africa is considered as a state that offers a best gateway for trade with Africa (Imobighe, 2012:397).

However, the news about the invitation of South Africa to join the then BRIC didn’t go down well with some analysts such as Jim O’Neil who is known for his coinage of the BRIC. O’Neil noted that the population of South Africa which was around 50 million by the time it was included was too scanty to be incorporated into BRIC.  According to O’Neil, Nigeria stands as a better than South African as its inclusion rather lessened the power of the club (Kornegay and Bohler-Muller, 2013:113).

The BRICS countries contribute 23.6% to the world economy. By 2022, the IMF forecasts that the group’s contribution will climb to 26.8%. Yet, there is a virtual disparity among the BRICS countries. Currently, the contribution of China alone to the economic performance of the club is 2/3 of the total group’s output. More interesting is the fact that the Chinese recorded growth in every six month equals to the total economic output of South Africa. Though every other BRICS countries depends largely on China, South Africa’s overdependence on China and other BRICS countries is very obvious. For the records, South Africa contributes only 3% of the total economy of the BRICS. Despite that, South Africa remains an important state in the BRICS which has been chosen to host the 2018 summit of the club amidst political leadership tension surrounding Jacob Zuma’s presidency (Wilhelm, 2018).

With a population of about 190 million, Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy for the past three years, continues to be the first in the continent despite several challenges that bedevilled it. The West African state is considered one of the best examples of a developing nation after colonialism. Its history of development entails several essential lessons on the economic and political obstruction of the developing world (Maseland, 2017:2). Nigerian economy made a good turn around in the post-colonial era because it embarked on myriads of developmental plans. Though the state was not satisfied with the effects of the development plan, some results were achieved. Some attributed the overdependence of the state’s economy on its oil as the main reason for the dissatisfaction (Agnes, 2016: 9).

Since Nigeria took over as the largest economy of Africa it had its worst full year recession in 2016. This was attributed largely to the lower global oil prices. Also, militant attacks and vandalism in the Niger Delta crushed oil production (The World Bank, 2017) Clearly since Nigeria’s oil is the main driving economic factor since 70% of government’s income is accrued from sales of crude oil, a decline or any significant effect in oil production would reflect in the economy of the country. Though sectors like agriculture and minerals showed some significant growth general lookout of the economy indicated that Nigeria experienced the worst economic decline since 2014 price of a barrel fell from $112 to $50 in 2016. Besides, inflation in July 2016 rose to 17.1% (BBC News, 2016).

According to the World Bank report, the Nigerian economy is projected to positively bounce back. This is largely due to the government’s intensified effort to bring peace and stability in the Niger Delta. The Nigerian government also aims to improve its relations with international oil companies. The agriculture sector is also forecast to have a significant growth. In addition, the government has launched an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) for 2017-2020. This plan which contains critical reforms is expected to expand transportation infrastructure, improve the business environment, educational achievement, transparency and anti-corruption.  Since Nigeria is the largest economy in the continent any significant effect it experiences would reflect in the GDP of the whole continent. African Economic Outlook 2017 captures that as follows:

“The fall in the commodity prices which persisted until early 2016, has tested the validity of the “African Rising” narrative. Africa’s growth slowed to 2.2% in 2016, down from 3.4% in 2015. This fall in gross domestic product (GDP) growth underscores the importance of a few big economies on Africa’s overall growth performance in 2016. Nigeria carries the largest weight accounting for 29.3% of Africa’s GDP. The recession experienced in Nigeria therefore had a more adverse impact on Africa’s GDP growth than the recessions in Chad or Libya” (2017:24).

In the same book top ten destinations for foreign direct investigation in Africa by foreign direct investment (FDI) accounts for 80% stock on of total stock with only Nigeria and South Africa having 50% of it. Also it is observed that Nigeria’s oil dominance of up to 90% of foreign exchange earnings amounts to only 10% of GDP as compared to 25.6% in 2000. This indicates a significant shift from overdependence on oil to other sectors of the economy such as services and agriculture (2017:30). In 2016 for instance Nigeria’s share of Africa’s GDP stood at 29.3% whilst South Africa’s stood at 19.1% (2017:31). However, The African Economic Outlook 2017 stresses that Nigeria stands to make a quick recovery as South Africa’s continues to experience more decline as follows:

“The growth performance of these regions will therefore depend on the performance of the individual countries with the largest weights. West Africa is expected to record an improved growth performance of 3.4% in 2017, due to the expected rebound in oil prices. Production from the delta region of Nigeria is also projected to improve following the arrest of militants behind recent attacks on oil fields. Southern Africa’s growth will continue to be subdued in South Africa, with an expected growth performance of 1.4% in 2017” (2017:31).

It is not the aim and objective of this article to compare and contrast the Nigerian and South African economies but it is hoped that matching the two economies will aid the proposition that Nigeria’s inclusion is a necessity to help expedite in achieving BRICS’ goals. To support this statement, Mr John Aluya, the former chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigerian (MAN) stated that

“as it appears, there is growing clamour to add Nigeria amongst the BRICS league of developing economies… this can be achieved through the diversification of the economy by re-invigorating established sector as no nation can be said to be developing without a strong and virile manufacturing base” (Nnorom, 2013).

In the bid to diversify the Nigerian economy, the federal state is looking beyond its oil might to consolidate its fast growing economy. One of the major areas the country has focused on, like mentioned above, is the agriculture sector. During the 1960, Nigeria was heavily producing cocoa, rubber and palm oil. During those times, foreign exchange gained from agricultural exports was 75%. Economic experts expect Nigeria to bounce to strongly in agriculture since it has taken a cue from its historic agricultural investments (The World Bank, 2017).


Table 1: Comparison of the BRINCS Countries’ Statistics

Population (2016) 207 million 144.3 million 1.324 billion 186 million 1.379 billion 55.9 million
GDP Per Capita (2016) $8.650 $8.748 $1.709 $2.178 $8.123 $5.274
Infant Mort. Per 1000 (2016) 14 7 35 67 9 34
Life Exp. (Years) (2015) 75 71 68 60 76 62
Key Exports Raw Sugar, Soybeans, Crude Petroleum


Rolled Steel



Natural gas


Pharma Products


Petroleum Products

Mineral Fuel



Oil Seeds

Raw Hides

Electrical Machines





Iron & Steel

Cane sugar

Motor Vehicles.

Source: This table is prepared by the authors with the aid of information got from the website https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN

Table 2: Projected real growth rates for expanded group of emerging market economies: 2007-50 (%pa)

Country GDP in US $ terms GDP in domestic currency or at PPP’s Population GDP per capita at PPPs
Vietnam 9.8 6.8 0.8 6.0
India 8.5 5.8 0.8 5.0
Nigeria 8.0 6.1 1.6 4.4
Philippines 7.2 5.2 1.1 4.1
Egypt 7.1 5.1 1.1 3.9
Bangladesh 7.0 5.1 1.1 3.9
China 6.8 4.7 0.1 4.6
Indonesia 6.7 4.5 0.6 3.9
Brazil 5.2 3.8 0.7 3.1
Turkey 5.1 4.1 0.7 3.4
S. Africa 4.8 3.7 0.3 3.3
Russia 4.3 2.5 -0.6 3.2

Source: Hawksworth & Cookson, 2008: 18

The table 1 illustrates the BRICS nations’ GDP population, GDP per capita, infant mortality, life expectancy as well as key exports. Nigeria is added to the table in order to compare it to other BRICS nations. Obviously Nigeria and India have the lowest GDP per capita in 2016. Yet, in interpreting the table 2, Nigeria stands out not in all African states alone but in the wide world as one of the states with considerable potential of growth (Hawksworth & Cookson). It overrides South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy by 2050. More importantly also, the strong non-oil GDP growth of Nigeria for past years is going to be sustained in the longer term. Despite some negative indications such as relative low income even by 2050 with GDP per capita of not higher than $11,700 at constant prices, the West African state is tipped to pose as a major challenge for other robust markets in the world. The researchers opine that investment growth is likely to be low due to likely political skirmishes in the country, but Nigeria can succeed a long term potential if it works on achieving sustainable political stability and economic openness in the longer term (Hawksworth & Cookson, 2008: 4, 18).

According to PWC’s report, the world economy will slow down over time but India and Nigeria stand out as the exception to this menace. This is because their growth shall remain higher for a longer period due to their lower average income levels which will provide a greater space for growth catch up (Hawksworth, Audino, and Clarry, 2017:72).

Table 3 Projected rankings of economies based on GDP at PPPs (in constant 2016 $bn)

GDP PPP rankings 2050 Rankings
Country Projected GDP at PPP
1 China 58499
2 India 44128
3 United States 34102
4 Indonesia 10502
5 Brazil 7540
6 Russia 7131
7 Mexico 6863
8 Japan 6779
9 Germany 6138
10 United Kingdom 5369
11 Turkey 5184
12 France 4705
13 Saudi Arabia 4694
14 Nigeria 4348
27 South Africa 2570

      Source: The World in 2050 www.pwc.com

Looking at the projections made in the table, it can be seen that the BRIC in the BRICS countries are among the world top ten in ranking. South Africa’s GDP is projected to dwindle to 27 in the course of time whereas Nigeria stands at 14. Nigeria currently ranks 22nd place but will shoot as top as 14 if the economy is diversified and weak institutions and infrastructure are addressed (Hawksworth, Audino, and Clarry, 2017:24)

Despite the green lights and positive news for the Nigerian economy besides, oil based economy and some issues of political instability, corruption is one big problem that has not only weakened the Nigeria economy now but will even make worse if not tackled. If tackled also Nigeria is projected to grow beyond the projection to become is force to reckon with in the world. The PWC report has it that deliberate effort to fight corruption has the potential for fast-tracking growth of Nigeria’s digital economy. This will leverage technology to generate improved social and economic outcomes (Hawksworth, Audino, and Clarry, 2017:29).

Moreover Nigeria’s population growth in the near future is another advantage for the countries labour productivity. Though with majority of unskilled of 70 million work forces, working on equipping the larger labour force with skills shall quicken the economic growth of the state. Currently the average productivity of a worker is lower than that of a South African worker. As an average Nigeria worker’s productivity stands as $3.24/hr, the average South African productivity stands at $19.68/hr. Since Nigeria’s population is estimated to be around 400 million in 2050 which will be equivalent to 56% percent of the population of Europe and also making the federal state world’s third most populous country, checking output growth keeps pace with the growth in population as the nation transits from an oil based economy to a diversified non-oil economy will be the catalyst for a marvellous growth in the state (Hawksworth, Audino, and Clarry, 2017:30).

  1. Conclusion

In order to answer the research question, “Is Nigeria’s inclusion necessary?” this paper looked at the trends of events in the current economic and political endeavours of the BRICS. It also compared economic and political developments and current achievements in Nigeria and South Africa. It is obvious that investors appear to be quite attracted to countries with larger prospects of growth. Other countries who are looking to similar states with interests to form clubs like BRICS are likely to cooperate with Nigeria as it has been projected to be suitable in the formation of clubs such as MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey). This formation will be a very good move for Nigeria as it is going to serve as the group’s hub in Africa. South Africa will be projected to lose Nigeria as its main trading partner in Africa because Nigeria’s trade focus will be largely centred on its members.

The BRICS will equally struggle to hold its trade interest in Africa. This is because South Africa would not be pulling up enough to help in keeping up with the BRICS goal in Africa. However, the BRICS can avoid that conclusion by including Nigeria. Nigeria like argued earlier would merge with South Africa and become a powerhouse for rapid development in achieving the aims and objectives of the BRICS. The inclusion of Nigeria will not become news to so many individuals and policy analysts because unlike in the case of South Africa Nigeria’s inclusion is better justified by clear future economic projections. In terms of economic development, states like Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, etc. among other countries are better candidates, our core argument in this article lies on the projection that by 2050 Africa will be the point of focus of all with Nigeria at the helms of affairs. Little should be worried about the resultant acronym, upon the ascension of Nigeria because BRINCS (with Nigeria) would be better than just BRICS (without Nigeria). This therefore makes the inclusion of Nigeria more necessary and proper.


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How to Cite:

HASHIRU, M. and TUFEKCI, O. (2018), ‘Putting the ‘N’ or Replacing the ‘S’ in the BRICS? Nigeria’s Rise as an Emerging Power’, Journal of Management and Economics Research, 16(3): 11-23.