Can Algeria become a member of BRICS?


As Algeria entertains the notion of joining BRICS, a collective of emergent economic giants encompassing Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, questions arise about the nation’s readiness for such an undertaking.

Despite Algeria’s omission from the list of countries invited to join the bloc next year, the query persists whether Algiers is adequately prepared. This curious endeavor prompts an evaluation of whether BRICS membership would genuinely bring strategic benefits or simply introduce a new set of complications.

The prospect of becoming a BRICS member signals a significant reorientation of foreign policy for Algeria, carrying substantial implications for its national trajectory. Moreover, it adds an intriguing dimension to the global landscape, with far-reaching consequences for the Maghreb region.

Algeria’s intention to join an agenda aimed at empowering emerging and developing nations, highlighted by its willingness to invest up to US$1.5 billion in the New Development Bank, underscores a new approach to international engagement. This bid comes at a strategic juncture as Algeria reconsiders its economic model, transitioning from an energy-dependent economy to promoting diversification and industrial modernization.

Furthermore, Algeria’s current elevation in European energy security is an advantage that aligns well with a budding bloc aspiring to rival the G7 and bolster South-South cooperation. However, Algeria’s dependence on fossil fuel revenues and certain geopolitical stances could potentially constrain its BRICS aspirations.

These ambitions must reckon with immediate challenges facing the Algerian economy, including high unemployment, fluctuating oil prices, and persistent fiscal deficits. Prior to fully committing to BRICS, Algeria could seize the opportunity presented by an evolving macroeconomic landscape to modernize industries, boost exports, generate employment, and embrace digital advancements.

While Algeria presently enjoys short- to medium-term economic stability, uncertainties loom over the long-term, prompting the country to actively seek foreign investments as a catalyst for diversification and modernization. The substantial increase in pensions, public wages, and retirement benefits in Algeria’s 2023 budget underscores the nation’s worrisome reliance on hydrocarbon revenues. This dependence leaves Algeria susceptible to fiscal challenges and social unrest brought about by price fluctuations.

A robust economic foundation is pivotal for Algeria’s recent foreign policy shifts, aimed at enhancing its regional profile, safeguarding national security, and projecting influence within its neighboring regions and the African continent.

Since President Abdelmajid Tebboune assumed office in December 2019 following the removal of Abdel Aziz Bouteflika, Algeria has worked to move away from the isolationist foreign policy that characterized its diplomacy in the 1990s and 2000s. In just three years, the Algerian Foreign Ministry has demonstrated surprising shifts and unusual initiative, highlighting the country’s aspiration for more active participation in global and regional affairs.

Algeria’s pursuit of BRICS membership goes beyond economic considerations, reflecting its intention to shed a legacy of cautious diplomacy and regain a significant role on the global stage to fulfill its geopolitical aspirations.

Presently, the nation enjoys relative political stability and short-term economic vigor, driven primarily by higher energy revenues and increased demand for Algerian gas following the conflict in Ukraine. With the government focused on foreign policy and room to maneuver until the 2024 presidential elections, Algeria is well-positioned to address internal socio-political challenges and appease the population through expanded benefits and subsidies, thus mitigating the risk of economic unrest.

Nevertheless, to make the most of potential BRICS membership, Algeria must display greater flexibility in its foreign policy and skillfully navigate complex relationships among BRICS partners. The nation’s improved economic performance, its largest-ever budget for 2023, and its stable political landscape create an opportune moment to adopt an active foreign policy and propel Algeria toward the desired level of global influence.

In terms of geopolitical strategy, Algeria’s potential BRICS membership could invigorate its role in Africa. As Africa gains significance in global geopolitics, Algeria could leverage BRICS collaboration to promote South-South partnerships, foster African regional integration, and expand its influence across the continent.

However, pivoting towards a BRICS-oriented foreign policy might necessitate substantial policy adjustments. BRICS, founded on shared economic interests and mutual aspirations of multipolarity, will require Algeria’s diplomacy to be agile and its policy frameworks to be inclusive and adaptable to negotiate multifaceted interests. For instance, Algeria’s longstanding association with Europe could become intricate, especially if Algiers intends to expand beyond energy cooperation into new realms. Algeria must adeptly balance its growing relationship with BRICS and its existing European ties, navigating a dynamic yet uncertain landscape of diverse strategic interests.

Algeria’s potential entry into BRICS could fundamentally reshape power dynamics in the Maghreb region, boosting its influence and challenging its neighbors, particularly Morocco, given their intertwined history and contentious issues. Such a shift could intersect with Algeria’s existing geopolitical strategies aimed at stabilizing neighboring countries, Tunisia and Libya, through discounted gas and electricity exports. These initiatives are part of Algiers’ calculated efforts to contain regional instability that could spill over its borders.

Additionally, Algeria has taken on a proactive role in brokering agreements between rival Palestinian factions, reinforcing its commitment to the nonaligned movement, and positioning itself as a regional influencer alongside Mediterranean counterparts like Egypt and Turkey. This display of diplomatic influence, coupled with potential economic assistance, was designed to dissuade undecided Arab countries from pursuing normalization. Whether Algiers achieved its goals or merely delayed inevitable developments remains uncertain.

Nevertheless, any shift in foreign policy exposes Algeria to heightened security risks, including the possibility of renewed tensions with Morocco over shared relationships with Sahelian, sub-Saharan, and other North African nations. A key potential flashpoint is Algeria’s support for the pro-autonomy Polisario Front, which could exacerbate geopolitical tensions beyond the Maghreb.

Furthermore, any decision to deploy military forces abroad could draw the ire of terrorist groups tied to those conflict zones, posing a potential threat to Algeria. Therefore, while Algeria’s BRICS aspiration offers a platform for expanded regional influence and strategic partnerships, it also introduces a complex web of potential risks and challenges. The true diplomatic finesse lies in balancing these counteracting forces while navigating toward a position of regional prominence.

Ultimately, Algeria’s BRICS dream presents an array of opportunities and challenges that could precipitate a significant reconfiguration of its national and international narratives. On one hand, such a move could expedite the nation’s economic diversification, enhance its geopolitical ambitions, and establish it as a key player in the intricate dynamics of the Maghreb, elevating its global standing. On the other hand, Algeria may grapple with the intricate task of managing its strategic alliances and adapting to new regional and international dynamics resulting from BRICS membership.

To some extent, Algeria’s ambition can be seen as an endorsement of the multilateral international order — an approach that could both enhance its global influence and challenge its historical ethos of nonalignment dating back to its independence. This presents a paradox: securing a place in a robust multilateral group while preserving its nonaligned foreign policy stance, which lies at the core of Algeria’s global identity.

Therefore, while strategically sound, the realization of Algeria’s BRICS aspirations hinges on how the nation addresses its internal challenges and aligns policymakers’ ambitions with the evolving realities of the global order. This leap could redefine not only Algeria’s status quo but also its footprint across Africa and beyond.


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