African Union and presidents welcome G20 membership

The African Union has joined the G20, but questions about the bloc's relevance in a fracturing geopolitical landscape remain.


Image : PIB/AFP

The African Union (AU) has officially joined the G20 at its annual meeting in India in the latest sign of Africa’s growing clout in international forums.

The AU was admitted to the organisation – which includes 19 of the world’s leading economies and the European Union – at its meeting in New Delhi on Saturday.

“We welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 and strongly believe that inclusion of the African Union into the G20 will significantly contribute to addressing the global challenges of our time,” said the summit’s final declaration.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi – who has for some time supported the AU’s accession to the organisation – embraced current AU chairperson Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, after announcing the AU’s admittance.

“Honoured to welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 Family. This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” Modi tweeted.

“The inclusion of @_AfricanUnion in the G20 underscores its pivotal role in global progress. We stand ready to further collaborate and boost our shared aspirations. We will keep working closely for global well-being,” he added.

The G20’s diverse membership – which includes global superpowers the US, China and the EU – represented around 85% of global GDP, over 75% of global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population prior to the expansion. Yet the relevance of the bloc has been questioned amid the rise of new multilateral institutions which claim to be more representative of previously marginalised nations. 

The meeting of the G20 came just two weeks after the BRICS bloc announced its own enlargement in Johannesburg, South Africa. Six new members –  Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – were admitted to BRICS, which pitches itself as an alternative to Western-led multilateral institutions. 

Leaders welcome move 

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, said that the membership of the G20 would help to amplify the continent’s voice in global affairs. 

“I welcome the @_AfricanUnion’s entry into the #G20 as full member. This membership, for which we have long been advocating, will provide a propitious framework for amplifying advocacy in favor of the Continent and its effective contribution to meeting global challenges.”

The accession was also welcomed by African leaders. President William Ruto of Kenya said the membership would “increase the voice of Africa, visibility, and influence on the global stage and provide a platform to advance the common interest of our people”, while President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia said that the invitation “means [Africa] has been recognised as a key player on the world economic landscape”.

“African countries must now leverage this position to accelerate development of their economies & their young populations,” he added.

How can Africa make the most of the membership?

In an opinion article for African BusinessIvory Kairo, a policy analyst at consultancy Development Reimagined, argues that there are several things that the African Union, supported by governments and multilateral institutions, can do to ensure meaningful engagement with the G20. 

Pressing issues include establishing who will represent the AU at the G20 meetings of finance ministers and of central bank governors. Another is the appointment of officials as “sherpas” to engage in strategic diplomacy, Kairo argues. 

“The AU, like the EU, has the apparatus and extremely credible diplomatic and financial prowess to deploy to strategically engage with the G20,” she writes. “It is simply a means of deciding who does what. The African Union Commission and AU Chairperson can start to make these decisions now.”

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David Thomas

Editor of African Business.