The G20 becomes the G21: a new chapter in Africa’s global engagement

by MMC
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A few years ago, the prospect of the African Union (AU) moving from “guest international organization” status to permanent member of the G20 would have seemed improbable. However, on Saturday September 9, this historic change has become a reality. The AU, made up of 55 member states, now shares the same status as the European Union, the only regional bloc that is a full member of the G20.

This development is of immense importance, particularly in the context of Africa’s growing influence on the global stage. It also reflects a broader pattern in which African countries have long argued for a seat at the table in discussions regarding their continent. Today, these calls are finally being heard.

Importance of the AU’s permanent membership in the G20

The AU becoming a permanent member of the G20 provides its leaders with a platform to directly engage the world’s major economies. This ensures that African perspectives are heard and valued in global decision-making processes. Amb. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, pointed out that Africa now has the opportunity to defend policies that respond to its specific challenges and priorities. This includes climate change, trade deals and food security. This membership amplifies the continent’s advocacy efforts.

G20 membership provides African countries with increased access to foreign direct investment (FDI) and economic partnerships. It opens doors to investments in critical sectors such as infrastructure, technology and renewable energy. The intersection of Africa’s security challenges and global security issues becomes a focal point when the AU engages in G20 deliberations on security issues, enabling it to tackle regional conflicts, anti-terrorism initiatives and peacekeeping operations.

Mutual benefits: Why the G20 needs Africa

Although the AU’s permanent membership in the G20 is seen as a step in the right direction, it is important to recognize that the G20 needs the AU just as much. Africa’s GDP currently stands at $3.1 trillion, surpassing that of India. If Africa were a country, it would rank fifth among the world’s economies and its share is expected to increase. By 2050, around a quarter of the world’s population will live on the continent.

Beyond their population size and economic power, African countries have distinctive assets that are essential to helping the G20 achieve its goals. Africa’s contribution to the global effort against climate change is particularly important. The continent holds significant reserves of cobalt, manganese and platinum, essential components for batteries and clean hydrogen technologies. Africa also has vast solar potential, estimated at 60 percent of the world’s untapped solar potential due to its long periods of sunshine. Despite contributing only 4% of global carbon emissions, several African countries are leading the way in sustainable energy.

Collaborative imperative

Getting a seat at the table is a great achievement, but there is much more at stake. African representation at this high table is long overdue. The G20 must maximize this opportunity to help Africa unlock its remarkable economic capacity and direct its efforts towards solving the critical issues affecting the continent. Although G20 membership undoubtedly strengthens the influence of the African Union, both economically and politically, it must ensure that the benefits of this partnership best serve Africa’s interests.

The AU’s transition to a permanent member of the G20 marks a historic step with far-reaching implications. This reflects Africa’s growing economic and geopolitical importance on the global stage. However, it is necessary for the AU and the G20 to collaborate effectively. They must leverage this new membership to promote sustainable development, address global challenges and ensure equitable benefits for Africa and the world.

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