In May 2012 Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs economist who coined the acronym “Bric” to describe the four economies — Brazil, Russia, India and China — that would dominate the global economy by 2050, wrote a piece for the Mail & Guardian. O’Neill wanted to explain that he was not pessimistic about South Africa and its recent inclusion in the grouping, and to clarify the idea behind Brics.

“[It] was meant to describe those countries large enough today, or which might be large enough in the future, to be literally part of the ‘bric’ or fabric of the modern global economy,” he wrote...

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