On February 13, 2024, Middle East Political and Economic Institute organized the webinar “Ethiopia: BRICS member and new challenges in the Horn of Africa”, the event being addressed to representatives of the political, academic, civil society and mass media from Romania, with interests and expertise in Africa.

The webinar aimed to present some aspects of interest regarding the African area and, above all, it focused on Ethiopia and its recent acceptance as a member of the BRICS organization. Therefore, the speakers – the President of MEPEI, Flavius CABA-MARIA, Dr. Ecaterina MAȚOI, Program Director of MEPEI, and Dr. Liviu MUREȘAN, President of EuroDefense Romania, presented aspects of interest regarding Ethiopia, but also related elements at the regional or global level, which may have repercussions even on Europe.

Dr. MAȚOI gave an extensive presentation of the Horn of Africa region, addressing aspects of a historical, economic and geopolitical nature, to contribute to deepening the general knowledge of the audience regarding the region, with an emphasis on Ethiopia, and issues of major interest. Moreover, towards the end of the presentation, Dr. MAȚOI pointed out possible future scenarios in the region, considering the interaction of Egypt – Sudan – Ethiopia through the prism of the conflicts regarding the Renaissance Dam on the Nile River, as well as the role of Ethiopia in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, considering the ties between Ethiopia and Israel. At the same time, the recent agreement between Ethiopia and Somaliland, regarding the recognition of Somaliland’s independence, represents a challenge for the entire region, in the context where Ethiopia is on a path of a political-diplomatic rise, while also pursuing commercial expansion by accessing maritime transit routes.

On the other hand, Mr. CABA-MARIA and Dr. MUREȘAN focused on issues regarding Ethiopia’s new BRICS membership role and the influence of foreign actors in the region, for example Russia and China. It is evident that, as one of the most recent states to join BRICS, Ethiopia is pursuing its economic and geostrategic priorities in a region marked by turmoil and conflict in recent history. At the same time, Ethiopia’s demographic potential is an aspect that should not be neglected in BRICS.

As Ethiopia is a high-potential country in East Africa with a relatively high GDP in Africa, through its recent membership in the BRICS organization, it is able to strengthen and improve its relations with other important developing countries and to promote the development of its infrastructure, especially in the fields of energy and transport. On the other hand, Ethiopia’s accession could also facilitate the cooperation of other BRICS states with African states and participate in the UN work in Africa, as well as contribute to solving the current problems in East Africa, with more opportunities and challenges for West Africa as well.

At the same time, the fact that Russia, a major global player, holds the BRICS presidency in 2024 means that several projects and mechanisms will be implemented during its term. These projects will certainly contribute to the development of Ethiopia, and aspects such as the dynamics and access to the sea of this state, together with its geostrategic position, will influence its future prospects and role at the global level.

During the Q&A session, the audience brought to the fore other aspects, complementary to those presented by the speakers, referring to the demographics of the region and the humanitarian effects of regional conflicts, the industry of private military groups that is highly developed in the African region, the future consequences of the climate crisis and global warming for the area, the regional migration, or Ethiopia’s mineral resources.

At the same time, through additional comments, the audience highlighted that although the geostrategic considerations of accepting states like Ethiopia within BRICS are obvious, in the long term, from an economic point of view, BRICS will have problems in supporting economically these mammoth states which need considerable financial resources for development. At the same time, the capacity of these states to contribute financially is reduced, rather being able to offer other trade-off benefits. Due to internal conflicts, Ethiopian state unity is still under threat, and its consolidation is necessary for it to be able to obtain a significant role at the regional level, similar to Egypt’s role.

In addition, the colonial legacy of African states or the wrong policies of those states, speculated also by the influences of third states, are matters of interest for Africa. On the other hand, a collateral effect of the war in Africa in Ukraine is the expansion of arms trafficking in the region, arms originating from the Ukrainian conflict zone and which can support opposition forces against legitimate African governments.

That is why BRICS is considered a framework in which dialogues and joint projects can be developed, and this type of platform can give the opportunity for affirmation of the African states, which are in a continuous dynamic, with an increasingly strong position at the global level.

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