Five key emerging market economies, commonly termed the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have been lauded for their stellar economic growth and resilience through the 2008/09 financial crisis. They are becoming models of development for development practitioners, researchers and other emerging economies. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you will notice that not all people in these countries have benefited equally from growth. Some countries have seen enormous increases in income inequality – specifically China, India and South Africa; Brazil has enjoyed a reduction. What can be learnt, in terms of the challenges and successes of reconciling growth and equity, from the BRICS’ recent growth?
How did we become so many? How large a number can our Earth sustain? These are important questions, but perhaps not the right ones for our times. When we look only at the big number, we risk being overwhelmed and losing sight of new opportunities to make life better for everyone in the future. So instead of asking questions like, “Are we too many?” we should instead be asking, “What can I do to make our world better?” or, “What can we do to transform our growing cities into forces for sustainability?” We should also ask ourselves what each of us can do to empower the elderly so they can play a more active role in their communities. What can we do to unleash the creativity and potential of the largest youth cohort humanity has ever seen?