African Union Asks for Permanent Seat at the G20

Leaders from the world’s top economies gathered mid-November on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for a G20 summit planned to review economic performance, examine challenges and design solutions for emerging tasks but these were partially overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis started since Feb 24.

As a full-fledged member, Indonesia took its turn this 2022. Each year the presidency of the G20 rotates, giving each country a chance to ensure the continuity of the agenda. Over the course of two days, some of this year’s priority issues listed on the site include global health architecture, digital transformation, and sustainable energy transition.

Our monitoring shows that a few leaders spoken for Africa. The key questions were on western industrialized countries’ contributions and support for attaining the planned sustainable development in Africa. It closely relates to North-South cooperation, as South-South cooperation has been sluggish and achieved little than its expected levels these several years. 

The industrialized North have taken consistent steps to extend financial pact with the South, and this time acknowledging the vital emergences decided on new financial package within the framework of multilateralism for the South. This includes taking stock of the reallocation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) special drawing rights (SDR) from rich countries to poorer countries.

Reports show, for instance, that France has made a commitment, with a few other countries, to be able to reallocate 30 percent of “special drawing rights” to the most fragile countries.

United States and European Union members support many countries with investment in various economic sectors in the South. Understandably, Africa still needs the Global North, and African leaders highly recognize this despite their consistent criticisms, particularly of the United States and Europe.

In addition to the above question, participating leaders further called for broader Africa’s representation on G20 Group. French President Emmanuel Macron told world leaders gathering that Paris “supports the full and complete integration of the African Union into the G20” and comparatively in the same way as the European Union is a member.

“If we want to express real solidarity with the South, we must accept that the African Union, like the European Union, comes to the table,” Macron declared during a press conference.

South Africa is currently the only African member of the G20. It was represented at the conference by the President Cyril Ramaphosa. He called for the African Union to be included as a permanent member of the Group of 20 leading economies. His argument was that the representation would allow African countries to more effectively press the G20 group to implement its pledge to help the continent to cope with climate change.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is the current Chairperson of the African Union, has previously called for an overhaul of international governance, and urged greater African representation on international bodies such as the UN Security Council and the G20. In October for instance, Sall said multilateralism had to “serve the interests of all” or else risk the “loss of legitimacy and authority.”

In addition to African Union and South Africa, there were three more African voices at the G20. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus officially represented the World Health Organization (WHO), but at the same time seen as an African voice. In his capacity as the head of WHO, he could convincingly speak on any related African questions.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the seventh Director-General of the WTO. She took office on 1 March 2021, becoming the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General. Her term of office runs until 31 August 2025.

She is a global finance expert, an economist and international development professional with over 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Reports indicate that Okonjo-Iweala is a citizen from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With this African origin, she therefore has an African voice, not permament though, at the G20.

Behind the scenes was also Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Since coming to power since 2000, he has been influential on Africa’s role on the international stage and regional bodies. Rwanda’s economy has grown rapidly under his presidency, and he has appropriated credits and praises from many foreign donors and investors as well as global political leaders. He served as the AU Chairperson in 2018 to 2019. According to official sources at the G20, he represented the NEPAD – the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development. 

The five Africans there was an appreciative picture. But what Africa was looking for is a permanent seat, not as an invited guest participant. South Africa is the only African member of the G20. The African Union views its membership as an opportunity to boost the image of the continent and the organization. It means, in future, the African Union as a permanent member, among all the privileges, will hold the G20 Presidency and consequently the G20 gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.