||This article examines the increasing engagement between the ‘emerging powers’ and African countries, and the implications for international governance. The global power dynamic is undergoing a cumulative reordering process, where countries including China, India, Brazil and Russia are occupying increasingly prominent roles in the international system. In their approach to Africa, the ‘BRIC’ countries have employed a mix of soft power, public diplomacy, direct investment and private sector partnerships to deepen relations. This article suggests that strict macro-economic explanations do not allow for the myriad political, strategic and social matters that are arising in this engagement. The analytical complexities of these emerging modes of South–South cooperation are examined at state and societal levels from a political economy perspective. Despite their differing intentions, Africa and the emerging powers appear to share common goals of advancing their respective national economies and enhancing their diplomatic status. These shifts are further giving rise to a new ‘global middle’. The emergence of this multilayered international order challenges scholars to stretch conceptions of world order, multipolarity and interdependence. The article concludes by surveying the relevance of BRIC interests in Africa for various subfields in international relations and points to areas for further research.