BRICS in a nutshell

365 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


Brazil Russia India China South Africa
Area 5th 1st 7th 3rd 25th
Population 5th 9th 2nd 1st 25th
Population growth rate 107th 221st 90th 156th 158th
Labour force 5th 7th 2nd 1st 34th
GDP (nominal) 8th 10th 11th 2nd 28th
GDP (PPP) 7th 6th 4th 2nd 25th
GDP (nominal) per capita 55th 54th 137th 95th 71st
GDP (PPP) per capita 71st 51st 127th 93rd 77th
GDP (real) growth rate 15th 88th 7th 5th 117th
Human Development Index 73rd 65th 119th 89th 110th
Exports 18th 11th 16th 1st 36th
Imports 20th 17th 11th 2nd 34th
Current account balance 47th 5th 169th 1st 179th
Received FDI 11th 12th 29th 5th 31st


7th 3rd 6th 1st 33rd
External debt 28th 24th 26th 23rd 45th
Public debt 47th 122nd 29th 98th 88th
Electricity consumption 9th 4th 5th 1st 14th
Number of mobile phones 5th 4th 2nd 1st 25th
Number of internet users 5th 7th 4th 1st 44th
Vehicle production 6th 19th 7th 1st 24th
Military expenditures 12th 5th 10th 2nd 43th
Active troops 14th 5th 3rd 1st 59th
Rail network 10th 2nd 4th 3rd 12th
Road network 4th 8th 3rd 2nd 18th

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.