What Does the Acronym BRICS Stand For?

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The term “BRICs” is an acronym developed from the names of countries that are in a similar stage of newly advanced economic development.

So what does BRICs stand for?

BRICs in simple terms refer to countries that financial analysts all over the world believe offer excellent opportunity for long-term economic growth and development.

These countries are Brazil, Russia, India and China. The small “s” is sometimes included to refer to South Africa – this will be explained later.

Map showing location of BRICS countries. Map: Cflm001, Mediaiwiki, public domain.
Map showing location of BRICS countries. Map: Cflm001, Mediaiwiki, public domain.

These economies are regarded as leading emerging markets coming into the new century. One of the major criteria used is population size since the four countries alone accommodate about 40 percent of the world’s population (China alone has 1.34 billion people).

View of The Bund area in Shanghai from across the Huongpu River.  Photo: CIA, public domain.
View of The Bund area in Shanghai from across the Huongpu River. Photo: CIA, public domain.

Writing a report analyzing the significance of emerging markets in 2001, Jim O’Neill (Head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs), in a order to reduce repeating the names of these countries over and over came up with this short form.

The title of the report was “The World Needs Better Economic BRICs” indirectly comparing them with the Asian Tigers. He stated that by the year 2050 the BRIC nations will be the dominant force in world economics.

However, the meaning of the term BRICs has since been broadened to include another emerging market believed to be equipped with great internal economic growth potential based on population and also openness to outside investments.

This fact was established in December 2010 when China asked South Africa to join the group of BRIC nations. O’Neill however contends that South Africa population and economy is far too small to be regarded as a BRIC nation.

Cape Town Harbor, South Africa.  Photo:CIA, public domain.
Cape Town Harbor, South Africa. Photo: CIA, public domain.

China has the largest economy of the BRIC nations contributing about 15 percent of the World’s economic output growth between year 2000 and 2008 while Russia was the smallest, her economy been put at about $1,232 billion as at 2009.

With regards to land area, all four countries are probably the largest countries covering about 25 percent of the world’s land mass. In terms of location, India and China are located in Asia; Russia in Europe; Brazil is a Latin (south) American country while South Africa is of course in Africa.

There are different elements regarding the above economies, different strengths and weaknesses, different investment appeals and of course, different histories but they all have one thing in common and that is the fact that they have all the necessary building blocks needed to become a superpower economy in the future.

Economic and Population Data for BRICS

HFCE (2009)Government spendingExportsImportsGDP per capita (PPP)Literacy rateLife expectancy (years, avg.)HDI
 Brazil201,046,886$2,242.8 bn$1,266.3 bn$846.6 bn$256.0 bn$238.8 bn$13,62393.5%74.6.744 (high)
 Russia143,451,702$2,118.0 bn$671.6 bn$414.0 bn$542.5 bn$358.1 bn$17,70899.6%70.7.778 (high)
 India1,210,193,422$1,870.6 bn$737.9 bn$281.0 bn$309.1 bn$500.3 bn$3,82974.04%64.2.586 (medium)
 China1,354,040,000$9,181.4 bn$1,835.3 bn$2,031.0 bn$2,021.0 bn$1,780.0 bn$9,16195.1% [37]72.7.719 (high)
 South Africa51,770,560$350.8 bn$173.8 bn$95.27 bn$101.2 bn$106.8 bn$11,37593%[38]51.2.658 (medium)

Table source: Wikipedia from the International Monetary Fund, April 2013.  


O’Neill, Jim. 2001.  The World Needs Better Economic BRICs (PDF).  Global Economics Paper, No. 66.

“World Economic Outlook”. IMF. April 2013 data. 


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