BRICS and Ethiopia: A New Frontier in Geopolitical Tug-of-War


In an era where global alliances are becoming ever more important, BRICS’ recent expansion to include Ethiopia is a testament to the evolving dynamics in international politics. The inclusion not only marks a strategic alignment for the coalition but also highlights Ethiopia’s growing prominence in regional geopolitics.

Ethiopia’s assertion of its influence in the Horn of Africa, particularly its sway over Somalia and its alleged influence over parts of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean waters, underscores the nation’s pivotal role in the region. By welcoming Ethiopia, BRICS effectively establishes a foothold in an area where access to maritime routes and control over the Red Sea and Indian Ocean waters are increasingly becoming points of contention.

However, the implications of this expansion stretch beyond the member nations. Ethiopia’s closeness with BRICS may drive Somalia to foster deeper ties with Western powers, notably the EU and US. The West, understanding the strategic significance of Somalia’s Red Sea and Indian Ocean waters, may perceive the need to strengthen their influence in Somalia to counterbalance the BRICS alliance.

The timing of Ethiopia’s inclusion coinciding with the multi-deal between the UAE and Ethiopia provides another layer to the story. Both nations have growing interests in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia’s sea waters and ports. There’s an emerging pattern here; strong nations taking advantage of weaker ones. It is no secret that Somalia’s government has been grappling with stability issues, which seems to have provided an opportunity for nations like the UAE and Ethiopia to gain a foothold in the region.

The tactic of using regional federal member states to further diminish Somalia’s sovereignty is a strategic move. It’s a classic case of divide and rule – if you can weaken the federal authority by supporting regional powers, the central power’s sovereignty can be compromised.

Therein lies the potential for heightened geopolitical tension. If Somalia becomes a theater for power plays between the West and BRICS, we may well be witnessing the early stages of a new geopolitical cold war. The waters off the coast of Somalia, which were once mostly noted for piracy, could now become the focal point of a larger global strategy.

For Somalia, this is a wake-up call. As bigger powers play their geopolitical games, it’s crucial for Somalia to regain its sovereignty, ensure stability, and strategically position itself in the global arena. The expansion of BRICS serves as a reminder that in the world of geopolitics, strategic location and influence often supersede the age-old principles of sovereignty and self-determination.

A potential move by the West to bolster the Somali Navy would be telling. It would not only challenge Ethiopia’s claims of controlling Somali waters but also signify the West’s commitment to maintaining its influence in the region. Such a move would send a clear message to BRICS – that the West won’t back down from securing its interests in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

As BRICS evolves and grows, its decisions will inevitably reverberate across the globe. The inclusion of Ethiopia might be just a membership expansion on paper, but in the world of geopolitics, it is a move that could reshape alliances and ignite fresh rivalries. Stakeholders across the world would do well to pay close attention to these developments, for they might just herald the start of a new chapter in global diplomacy.

Ismail D. Osman
Ismail D. Osman
Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him osmando[at] @osmando


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