The African Union (AU) on September 9 formally took its seat as a member of G20 at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as leaders of the world’s wealthiest countries gathered in India’s capital, New Delhi, for the G20 summit.
The continental body of 55 member states whose previous designation was “invited international organisation” now has the same status as the European Union – the only regional bloc that had full G20 membership.
Before then, South Africa was the only African country included in the grouping.
Like other leaders, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday said “we are delighted” that the G20 accepted the AU as a member. He first noted that global reconstruction in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic presents a unique opportunity to accelerate the transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient, sustainable societies.
Ramaphosa said: “Developing economies are bearing the brunt of climate change, despite carrying the least responsibility for this crisis. As African and other developing economy countries, we face the task of meeting our climate commitments in the midst of significant developmental challenges like poverty, inequality and unemployment.”
“Climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable consumption and production and resource scarcity are challenges that can only be addressed collectively and with a great deal of solidarity.
South Africa called for an enhanced and expanded Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. This, Ramaphosa said, must be supported by the concrete policies and actions outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development.
Amb. Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, also welcomed the bloc’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,” he posted on X.
President William Ruto also noted that Kenya welcomes the addition of the African Union – the fastest-growing continent in the world – to the G20.
Ruto said: “This will increase the voice of Africa, visibility, and influence on the global stage and provide a platform to advance the common interest of our people. This fits perfectly with the resolutions of the just-concluded Africa Climate Summit, including the reform of international financial institutions and multilateral development banks.”
By and large, the continent bears the brunt of challenges such as climate change which is a core topic of discussion for the G20. Africa emits roughly 4% of the total greenhouse gas emissions compared to China and the EU at 23% and 13%, respectively.
A policy brief by Development Reimagined, a pioneering, independent International Development consultancy with headquarters in China, answers the question: What does an influential AU in the G20 look like?
The policy brief was intended to act as a guide for African and G20 member country governments, policymakers, and development practitioners on the reasons the AU should join the G20 as a permanent member. As noted, the G20, a collection of the world’s top economies comprising of 19 countries and the EU, represents over 80% of global GDP and 75% of global trade.
“The G20’s role in discussing economies and developing solutions to economic crises cannot be underestimated,” reads part of the 23-page policy brief.
“On the other hand, as of 2023, Africa’s GDP was estimated to be US$ 3.1 trillion, with a population of 1.3 billion. Further, the continent is expected to experience significant economic growth, with the World Bank forecasting the continent’s GDP growth at 3.6% and 3.9% for 2023 and 2024, respectively, and with 91% of African economies projected to grow above the global forecast of 1.7% growth in 2023.
“Given that a significant proportion of global growth will be driven by the continent in the forthcoming years, Africa’s economic weight cannot – and should not – be overlooked.”
As further highlighted, enhancing African representation in multilateralism is key to the continent having a seat at the table.
Membership in the G20, it is noted, gives the AU a platform to advocate for the interests of its member states in global governance, enabling the continent to shape the agenda on global issues such as climate change, trade, and security. Discussions at the G20’s annual meeting deeply relate to the challenges the continent faces.
According to Development Reimagined’s policy brief, the G20 needs the AU for two key reasons: enhanced African representation and Africa’s contribution to economic growth.