Xi Jinping heads to South Africa for BRICS summit

Both China and Russia are looking to boost the BRICS economic alliance amid growing tensions with Western nations. [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping set off for Johannesburg on Monday to attend the 15th BRICS summit, China's Xinhua state news agency reported.

This visit will be Xi's second international trip in 2023 following his trip to Russia in March. The Chinese leader previously visited South Africa in 2018 as he sought to enhance his country's diplomatic and economic ties with the continent.

The event will convene the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, from Tuesday to Thursday this week under the theme "BRICS and Africa."

The attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin had been in question, after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against him over his role in the Ukraine war. Instead, Russia's top diplomat will attend the summit in person, while Putin will appear via video link.

Expansion of BRICS on the agenda

The summit's agenda includes discussions on a range of topics, including the potential expansion of BRICS membership.

The group, which represents a substantial portion of the global economy and population, has indicated its willingness to consider new members.

Over 20 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, have expressed interest in joining the bloc.

A total of 69 countries have been invited to the summit, including all African states.

BRICS - a loosely defined group that sees itself as a counterweight to Western economic domination - derives its name from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The countries in the current BRICS grouping amount to 23 per cent of the world's gross domestic product and represent 42 per cent of the global population.