In a surprising move, Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that it has officially joined the BRICS group of emerging economies, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The decision was made after months of negotiations and consultations with the other members, who welcomed the kingdom as a valuable partner in promoting multilateralism, trade and development.
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region, with a GDP of $792 billion in 2020. It is also the world’s largest exporter of oil and a major investor in various sectors, such as infrastructure, technology and renewable energy. By joining BRICS, Saudi Arabia aims to diversify its economy, reduce its dependence on oil revenues, and enhance its regional and international influence.
The BRICS group was formed in 2006 as an informal dialogue forum among four major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. South Africa joined the group in 2010, adding an African perspective to the agenda. The BRICS countries account for about 23% of global GDP, 18% of global trade, and 40% of global population. They also have significant political clout in international organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the G20.
The BRICS group has established several mechanisms for cooperation and coordination, such as regular summits, ministerial meetings, business forums and academic networks. The group has also launched several initiatives to foster economic integration and development, such as the New Development Bank (NDB), which provides financing for infrastructure and sustainable projects in BRICS and other developing countries.
The Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), which provides mutual support in times of balance of payments difficulties; and the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR), which aims to enhance cooperation on innovation, digitalization and industrialization.
The addition of Saudi Arabia to the BRICS group will bring new opportunities and challenges for both sides. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia can benefit from the access to new markets, sources of finance and technology that the BRICS group offers. It can also leverage its strategic location, abundant resources and diplomatic connections to contribute to the group’s objectives and interests.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia will have to adapt to the diverse and complex dynamics within the BRICS group, which often reflect different political, economic and social realities and aspirations. It will also have to balance its relations with its traditional allies in the West, especially the United States, which may view its alignment with BRICS as a potential threat or challenge.
Saudi Arabia’s joining of BRICS is a significant development that will have implications for the global economy and geopolitics. It reflects the changing nature of the international system, where emerging powers are playing a more active and influential role in shaping the rules and norms of global governance. It also demonstrates the willingness and ability of Saudi Arabia to pursue its national interests and vision in a dynamic and uncertain world.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to join BRICS+ is a strategic move that reflects its ambition to diversify its economy and diplomacy in a changing world. By being part of this group of emerging economies, Saudi Arabia can gain access to new markets and opportunities, as well as enhance its global influence and position.
However, Saudi Arabia will also have to face some challenges and risks that stem from being part of a diverse and complex bloc that may clash with its existing partners and interests. Therefore, Saudi Arabia will have to adopt a pragmatic and flexible approach to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of its membership in BRICS+.
The new Zimbabwe Citizenship Policy
Meanwhile, the government of Zimbabwe has recently announced a new policy that aims to regulate the citizenship status of people who were born in the country or have a connection to it. The policy, which will take effect from March 1, 2024, has been met with mixed reactions from various stakeholders and observers.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, the policy is intended to address the challenges of statelessness, dual citizenship, and identity documentation that have affected many Zimbabweans, especially those who migrated to other countries during the economic and political crises of the past decades. The policy also seeks to promote national unity, security, and development by ensuring that all Zimbabweans have a sense of belonging and loyalty to their country.
The main features of the policy are as follows:
Anyone who was born in Zimbabwe before April 18, 1980 (the date of independence) is automatically a citizen by birth, regardless of their parents’ nationality or status.
Anyone who was born in Zimbabwe after April 18, 1980, and has at least one parent who is a citizen by birth or descent is also a citizen by birth.
Anyone who was born outside Zimbabwe and has at least one parent who is a citizen by birth or descent can apply for citizenship by descent, provided they renounce any other citizenship they may have.
Anyone who has been ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe for at least 10 years and has renounced any other citizenship they may have can apply for citizenship by registration.
Anyone who is married to a citizen by birth or descent can apply for citizenship by marriage, provided they renounce any other citizenship they may have and have lived in Zimbabwe for at least five years.
Anyone who has made a significant contribution to the development of Zimbabwe or has special skills or qualifications that are beneficial to the country can apply for citizenship by conferment, subject to the approval of the President.
Anyone who has lost their citizenship due to renunciation, deprivation, or any other reason can apply for reinstatement, subject to the approval of the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage.
The policy also stipulates that dual citizenship is not allowed for anyone who is 18 years or older, except for those who are citizens by birth. Those who have dual citizenship must renounce one of their citizenships before March 1, 2024, or risk losing their Zimbabwean citizenship. The policy also requires that all citizens obtain a national identity card and a passport as proof of their citizenship and identity.
The policy has been welcomed by some groups and individuals who see it as a progressive and inclusive move that will enable many Zimbabweans to reclaim their citizenship rights and access various services and opportunities. They also argue that the policy will enhance the country’s sovereignty and security by preventing foreign interference and infiltration.
However, the policy has also been criticized by some groups and individuals who see it as a retrogressive and exclusive move that will disenfranchise many Zimbabweans and create more problems than solutions. They also contend that the policy will violate the country’s constitution and international human rights obligations by discriminating against certain categories of people and imposing unreasonable conditions and restrictions on citizenship acquisition and retention.
Some of the main issues raised by the critics are:
The policy does not recognize the right to a nationality as a fundamental human right that cannot be arbitrarily denied or revoked. The policy does not provide adequate safeguards against statelessness, especially for children who may be born to parents who are not citizens or whose citizenship status is unclear or disputed.
The policy does not respect the principle of non-discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation in granting or denying citizenship. The policy does not acknowledge the diversity and complexity of the Zimbabwean diaspora, which comprises people who have different reasons, circumstances, and aspirations for leaving or staying in their country of origin or destination.
The policy does not offer sufficient flexibility and discretion in dealing with cases that may require special consideration or humanitarian intervention. The policy does not facilitate the participation and consultation of all relevant stakeholders and affected parties in the formulation and implementation of the policy.
In light of these concerns, some of the critics have called for the review and revision of the policy before it is implemented. They have also urged the government to engage in dialogue and cooperation with civil society organizations, human rights groups, legal experts, diaspora representatives, regional and international bodies, and other interested parties to ensure that the policy is consistent with the constitution, human rights standards, best practices, and public interest.
The new Zimbabwean Citizenship Policy is undoubtedly a significant development that will have far-reaching implications for millions of people within and outside the country. It is therefore imperative that the policy is carefully examined, debated, and refined to ensure that it serves its intended purpose of enhancing the rights, dignity, and welfare of all Zimbabweans.