South Africa’s foreign minister said Saudi Arabia and four other countries have accepted the invitation to join the BRICS club of nations that was extended during a summit last year.

Minister Naledi Pandor said that Russia, who takes over as chair of the bloc this year from South Africa, has received written interest from 34 countries who want to join. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia and the United Arab Emirates are now full members, she said.

“Argentina has written to indicate that they will not act on this successful application by the previous administration to become full members of BRICS and we accept their decision,” Pandor told a press briefing in the capital, Pretoria, on Wednesday.

Leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to enlarge their BRICS group from Jan. 1 at a summit held in Johannesburg in August.

BRICS foreign ministers are developing a so-called BRICS partner country model to accommodate 17 nations who were not accepted as full members, Pandor said.

The bloc is also devising a framework to allow members to use their local currencies for inter-BRICS trade. The minister said that the bloc found the current, predominantly dollar-based international payment system to be “unfair and costly.”

More stories like this are available on