BRICS in a nutshell reporter

On 13 April 2011 the BRIC economic group became BRICS, when South Africa joined the powerful group of emerging nations. The country attended the 2010 summit in a guest capacity and is now at the 2011 event as a full member after formal admission in December 2010.

BRICS countries


The founding nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and now South Africa, are in a similar state of economic development, although South Africa ranks lower according to several significant indicators. However, despite its small standing in terms of statistics, South Africa is viewed as a gateway into the rest of Africa and its rich natural resources and millions of consumers, and as such, is of great value to the other nations as a strategic partner.

To date three summits have been held: in 2009 Russian president Dmitry Medvedev hosted his BRIC counterparts in Yekaterinburg; in 2010 it was the turn of then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to welcome the other nations to Brasilia, Brazil; and in 2011 the group met in China at the invitation of President Hu Jintao.

The five current leaders are Hu Jintao; Dmitry Medvedev; Indian prime minster Manmohan Singh; President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil; and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

The 2012 summit will take place in New Delhi, India, under the patronage of Prime Minister Singh.

Economic powerhouses

A report (PDF, 408KB) published in 2005 by Goldman Sachs’s economic research group, titled How solid are the BRICS?, suggests that at the time, only Mexico and South Korea were suitable potential candidates for expansion of the bloc.

Referring to a previous paper published in 2001, the Goldman Sachs report mentioned that while it did not ignore South Africa, it felt that South Africa was unlikely to match the BRIC nations in economic clout, despite having great potential in its own right.

Even Goldman Sachs’s list of Next 11 (N11) countries, those which have the potential to rise to the economic heights of the BRIC countries, excluded South Africa. In 2005 the list included Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam.

Goldman Sachs based its selection on factors such as political maturity, macroeconomic stability, quality of education, and openness of trade.

BRICS vital statistics


BrazilRussiaIndiaChinaSouth Africa
Population growth rate107th221st90th156th158th
Labour force5th7th2nd1st34th
GDP (nominal)8th10th11th2nd28th
GDP (PPP)7th6th4th2nd25th
GDP (nominal) per capita55th54th137th95th71st
GDP (PPP) per capita71st51st127th93rd77th
GDP (real) growth rate15th88th7th5th117th
Human Development Index73rd65th119th89th110th
Current account balance47th5th169th1st179th
Received FDI11th12th29th5th31st


External debt28th24th26th23rd45th
Public debt47th122nd29th98th88th
Electricity consumption9th4th5th1st14th
Number of mobile phones5th4th2nd1st25th
Number of internet users5th7th4th1st44th
Vehicle production6th19th7th1st24th
Military expenditures12th5th10th2nd43th
Active troops14th5th3rd1st59th
Rail network10th2nd4th3rd12th
Road network4th8th3rd2nd18th

Data reportedly sourced from The Economist’s 2008 edition of Pocket World in Figures.

In 2006 Goldman Sachs carried out a projection of the GDP of countries of interest, forecasting up to 2050. It found that the GDP of the then-BRIC nations would eventually outstrip that of the powerful G7 bloc by some way.


Gross Domestic Product (in US$ billions, 2006)













128 324

98 757

74 483

55 090

40 278

28 925

20 226

13 653

8 640

5 637


66 039

59 475

53 617

48 281

43 745

39 858

36 781

33 414

30 437

28 005

Data taken from BRICS and Beyond (PDF, 3.4MB), published in 2007 by Goldman Sachs.