Leaders of the BRICS group on Thursday invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates to join the bloc.

The BRICS is a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. These nations represent around 40% of the world’s population and more than 25% of the global economy.

This is the second time that the group has decided to expand since its formation in 2009. It last added South Africa as a member in 2010.

The announcement about adding new members was made by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is hosting a summit of BRICS leaders. The new members will formally be admitted to the bloc by January 1.

“BRICS has embarked on a new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that is just, a world that is also inclusive and prosperous,” said Ramaphosa.

The South African president hinted that more new members could be admitted in future. “We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process and other phases will follow,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India has always fully supported the expansion of BRICS as it believed that the addition of new countries would strengthen the club.

“We have taken an important decision to expand BRICS,” Modi said. “This will further strengthen the beliefs of many countries in this multipolar world. I am happy that our teams have agreed on the guiding principles, standards, criteria, and procedures for the expansion of BRICS.”

China’s President Xi Jinping said that the decision to expand the bloc’s membership is historic. “It shows the determination of BRICS countries for unity and cooperation with the broader developing countries,” he added, according to Reuters.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that this was “a great moment” for his country, the second-most populous in Africa. “Ethiopia stands ready to cooperate with all for an inclusive and prosperous global order,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Earlier, South African officials had said that over 40 countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Algeria, Bolivia, Indonesia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Comoros, Gabon and Kazakhstan, had expressed interest in joining the bloc, according to Reuters. Of these, 22 had formally asked to be admitted.

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