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Is Algeria Ready to Join BRICS?

On November 7, 2022, Algeria announced that it had officially submitted an application to join BRICS, the intergovernmental organization that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa through economic, political, security, and financial exchange and cooperation. Algeria’s bid was immediately welcomed by the bloc’s two behemoths, Russia and China.

A few months later, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated his country’s support for the Algerian candidacy, declaring that “with its qualifications, Algeria is a leading contender” to join BRICS. The North African regional power has long been seriously eyeing membership into the organization, whose acronym was coined in 2001 by a Goldman Sachs economist, and which held its first conference in 2009 in Russia. If the Algerian bid succeeds, it would become the second African country, after South Africa in 2011, to join BRICS.

Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune was invited to speak during the BRICS’ most recent summit held virtually by China in June 2022. One month later, Tebboune expressed his country’s interest in joining, and said that “membership of BRICS is dependent on economic conditions which Algeria largely satisfies.”

How would Algeria benefit from joining BRICS?

Making up 25 percent of the world’s GDP and more than 42 percent of the world’s population, BRICS, in its current state, has significant economic and demographic importance. For Algeria, joining the organization would cement its relations with member countries, especially Russia and China, and would strengthen its international position through a group which, according to estimates, is set to contribute to 40 percent of the world economy in 2030.

“Joining BRICS will make Algeria stronger economically,” said Tebboune in an interview with Al Jazeera in April 2023, adding that the country might first join the organization as an observer state. 

The final years of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s reign in Algeria were characterized by a long period of diplomatic lethargy due to the former president losing cognitive functions following multiple strokes. It was only after the Bouteflika regime was ousted by the Hirak protests of 2019 that Algeria began to regain a place in the international arena. 

Joining BRICS could also mean a new borrowing capacity for Algeria, as the organization wishes to bolster its New Development Bank, an alternative financing system to existing institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. 

In addition to reinforcing its diplomatic status and increasing its financial resources, a BRICS membership would make space for Algeria to engage in technological transfers with certain member countries such as India, which would then allow it to strengthen existing partnerships, as stated by the Indian Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh, in September 2022. 

Nonetheless, some specialists believe that joining BRICS would not be of any particular interest for Algeria because of the lack of economic integration between its member states. Others point to the political friction between some members, namely India and China, and the latter’s domineering influence on the bloc as worrying factors, wondering if they may compromise future decisions and projects for the BRICS.

Structural shortcomings

Although Tebboune maintains that “Algeria largely satisfies the economic conditions for membership,” the country’s rentier economy lacks diversification and is too reliant on hydrocarbons. Its GDP of $174.2 billion in 2021, according to the World Bank, largely trails behind the BRICS’ smallest economy. For comparison, South Africa posted a nominal GDP of $353.26 billion in 2021.

“When our gross domestic product exceeds $200 billion, we will be able to say that we are close to joining the BRICS,” conceded Tebboune in December 2022, while adding that he expected Algeria to hit that figure in 2023. The International Monetary Fund forecast lends credence to his prediction, as Algeria’s GDP is expected to climb to $206 billion in 2023.


Despite its economic shortcomings, Algeria’s geographic position, fast-growing population, and warm relations with all BRICS countries, makes its bid a strong one. The precise criteria for new membership is yet to be set by the five member countries, and will be revealed during its next summit in June 2023. What is certain is that the unanimous agreement of each BRICS country remains a prerequisite for the integration of a new state. 

The return of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the fact that the next annual summit is taking place in South Africa, one of Algeria’s foremost allies on the continent, play into Algeria’s favor. With this in mind, Algeria has a strong hand of cards that gives it a great chance of joining the BRICS in the near future.

Rising multilateralism and the reconfiguration of international relations

The June 2022 meeting was an opportunity for the five BRICS member states to reiterate their desire to integrate new members. According to Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to the group, “thirteen countries have formally asked to join and another six have asked informally.” 


Expanding BRICS is, perhaps, an expected move when taking into account increased global multilateralism and the reconfiguration of international relations. In addition to Algeria, Iran and Argentina have submitted formal applications, while states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt have expressed their desire to join. 

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is also the perfect example of this shift in international relations: some states are maintaining economic and political relations with Western powers while also refusing to take a hardened stance on the conflict and apply Western sanctions vis-à-vis Russia.

Algeria, whose ties with Moscow are historic, received Lavrov in May 2022, three months after Russia’s offensive began. Tebboune was also expected to make an official visit to Russia in December 2022, but that has been postponed to May 2023. Some have seen the postponement as being the result of pressure exerted by Western powers. Yet, Algeria abstained at the United Nations General Assembly draft resolution vote held on March 2, 2022, which aimed at condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One year later, on February 23, 2023, Algeria abstained again, and was one of 32 abstaining countries during the non-binding vote for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine at the UN General Assembly.

Algeria and the China-Russia Axis

Algeria has maintained a consistent stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict since it began, not wanting to compromise its relations with its Russian ally, which happens to be its main arms supplier. Algeria was particularly criticized for this military cooperation by 27 bipartisan American members of congress who called in September 2022 for the country to be sanctioned under the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act” due to its arms imports from Russia.

In November 2022, 17 members of the European Parliament also requested a revision of the European Union-Algeria Association Agreement signed in 2002 and ratified in 2005. They accused Algeria of politically and financially supporting Russia by being “among the top four buyers of Russian arms in the world.” 

In addition to defense cooperation, Algeria has also established other types of trade relations with Russia. Algeria is one of the main wheat importers in the world, and the country began prioritizing Russian wheat in lieu of French wheat a few years ago, quadrupling its purchases from Russia with 1.3 million tons of wheat imported in 2022, compared to 330,000 tons in 2021.

Algeria’s relations with China are strong as well. The country has historical ties with China dating back to the Algerian War of Independence, when Mao Zedong’s China lended support to the Algerian revolution, and was one of the first countries to recognize the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic.


In contemporary times, China is among Algeria’s main economic partners. In addition to historic, political, and diplomatic convergences, Algeria joined the Chinese Silk Road project in 2018, and China is Algeria’s leading commercial supplier with an average annual export of $8 billion since 2013. 

The partnership was crystallized with the signing of the first Five-Year Plan for Global Strategic Cooperation, which was initially signed in 2014 and ran until 2018. The second Five-Year Plan was signed in 2022. The cooperation covers several sectors, such as “economy, trade, energy, agriculture, science and technologies, space, health and culture.”

Undermining Sino-Russian influence in Africa

BRICS expansion is of particular importance as new geopolitical tensions are incentivizing European countries and the United States to push countries from the Global South away from Russia and China’s influence. 

Africa is the main stage of the diplomatic battle. On the continent, the United States has seen its business presence steadily decline. For example, analysts have noted that trade has dwindled from $142 billion in 2008 to $64 billion in 2021.

To counter waning Western influence, both France and the United States have multiplied rapprochement attempts and conciliatory declarations in recent months. The United States organized the U.S.-Africa summit in December 2022, which President Tebboune did not attend. Instead, Algeria was represented by its prime minister, Aimen Benabderrahmane. At the conclusion of the summit, U.S. president Joe Biden announced the procurement of more than “$15 billion in two-way trade and investment commitments, deals, and partnerships” in Africa.

Biden also advocated for the integration of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 and announced that he wanted to support the notion of a permanent African seat at the United Nations Security Council. Algeria, sharing this wish, launched a campaign in September 2022 for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for the term 2024-2025. 

France, for its part, is trying its utmost to warm its fluctuating relations with its former colony Algeria. The two countries have experienced several crises during the past months regarding controversial remarks of their shared history. France, among others European countries such as Italy, has turned to Algeria to ensure gas supplies amidst the war between Ukraine and Russia and the reduction of Russian natural gas supply to western European countries. 

In a time of turbulence, Algeria finds itself navigating an ever-changing landscape of international relations. As a result, Algeria has reverted to its traditional strategy of “Third Worldism,” which it had originally adopted during the Cold War. Joining BRICS would increase the country’s multilateral relations and allow the country, in President Tebboune’s words, “to move away from the two blocs.”

Zahra Rahmouni is an independent journalist who has been covering Algerian issues over the last eight years.

Source : Timep