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African Union could obtain a seat at the Group of 20

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African Union could obtain a seat at the Group of 20

Currently, the Group of Twenty (G20) includes only one African member, South Africa. However, its representatives express joint approval for the permanent membership of the African Union (AU) in the G20.

G20 : a Group with significant economic influences

Founded in September 1999, the G20, the principal forum for global economic cooperation, comprises 19 countries and the European Union. The African continent is frequently discussed in its meetings and resolutions. Although African countries are often marginalized in the current world order, the G20 is an exception.

The G20 is predominant in shaping the global framework for international economic issues. Economically, this intergovernmental forum accounts for 85 % of the global GDP and 75 % of international trade. It also includes engagement sections such as the Business 20 (B20). This official G20 discussion forum brings professional communities, economic actors, legal entities, civil societies, and researchers from member countries. The B20 coordinates global leaders to agree on economic governance.

Challenges of African Union Adhesion in the G20

The request for African countries’ adhesion in the G20 often calls out the principles of fairness and inclusivity. While Latin America and Europe each have at least three member countries in the G20, the African Union needs more involvement in the group’s decision-making. Besides South Africa’s inclusion, the continent needs more visibility in this global economic forum. The African Union comprises 55 members with a total GDP of 3 trillion USD.

Full membership of the African Union in the G20 also entails many political, cultural, and technical challenges. By integrating into the G20, AU member countries must harmonize their positions and speak with one voice on the issues discussed at the Summit. African leaders must collaborate with their European and Asian counterparts to design a fair and beneficial global financial system.

Furthermore, this inclusion requires African Union countries to take positions on global issues. For example, the war in Ukraine, strong and sustainable growth, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Growing interest in Africa

Africa rarely gets involved in discussions beyond its borders. Most G20 initiatives relegate the continent to a passive or, at best, consultative beneficiary position. However, this international economic forum has recently shown increasing interest in African concerns and global issues relevant to the continent. In 2016, during the Chinese presidency of the G20, there were discussions about supporting industrialization in African countries. In 2017, the German presidency established the « Compact with Africa » (CwA) to promote private investment in the continent.

During the Italian presidency in 2021, forum members engaged with the first Consultative Group on the African continent. The same year, France hosted the Paris Summit on Financing African Economies, and the G20 approved its decisions. This event was co-hosted by Macky Sall, President of Senegal and the African Union in 2022. The Summit brought together about thirty heads of state and government and leaders of international organizations.

More recently, in 2022, the G20 forum discussed its support for low-income or debt-burdened African countries through COVID-19 vaccine coverage under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the Common Framework for Debt Treatment.

Additionally, the Business B20 has gradually focused on key priorities to promote the growth of African economies. The 2023 B20 summit focused on « B20 Action for Africa », aiming to stimulate investments in infrastructure and information and communication technologies (ICT). During this gathering, the G20 reaffirmed its support for African countries by emphasizing the importance of human capital in all sectors.

African Union Adhesion in the G20 gains support

At the request of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the African Union participated in the G20 summits on September 9-10, 2023, in New Delhi. This marked the first participation of an intergovernmental organization in G20 summits. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Arab League, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) have never been invited to this multilateral gathering. Note that the European Union is a supranational organization.

Most permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and prominent academics like Jeffrey Sachs have expressed their approval for the inclusion of the African Union in the G20. Many global economic actors, including leaders, have supported this permanent integration. In November 2022, Emmanuel Macron advocated for the full integration of the African Union into this economic cooperation forum among industrialized countries. In December, U.S. President Joe Biden also argued for permanently including the AU’s 55 member states in the G20.

During the AU summit in February 2023, representatives emphasized the importance of including African countries in the G20 as permanent members. More recently, during a tour of East Africa in March, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his approval of the permanent integration of African countries into the G20. In a statement, Olaf Scholz emphasized that this membership demonstrates respect for the continent and its nations. The presidency of the emerging BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in the G20 also raises hopes for integrating African countries into this forum, given that India currently holds the presidency.

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