G20 has become the epitome of economic governance since its inception. Its existence for 14 years at the summit level shows its practical purpose in the global arena. As a key grouping, G20 has treated Africa as a subject of development rather than as an active member. African issues have always been figured in G20 discussions. South Africa, is the only African country that has raised the African agenda in G20 and the need for greater voice and representation in the G20.
This paper briefly examines the growth of Africa in G20’s agenda, a more holistic representation of the African continent, and AU’s permanent membership by tracing opportunities for India to play a more substantial role in the inclusive global south by providing AU membership in its presidency.
The Growth of Africa in G20’s Agenda (2010-2020)
G20 governance concerning Africa highlights that the continent has received diverse observations from different presidencies. G20 members have always talked about Africa’s development and growth and showed concern for the continent’s betterment. However, African countries were never allowed to represent themselves. South Africa has consistently called for a broader representation of African interests at G20 and has supported the African union’s demand for permanent membership of G20.
In this regard, The Toronto Summit was a landmark event in the growth of the African Agenda, where AU participated at the G20 Summit for the first time.
The G20 created the Development Working Group(DWG) as a result of the Toronto Summit in 2010. The DWG highlights the need for G20 leaders to narrow development gaps, along with poverty reduction measures, to ensure a robust and resilient global economy. At the G20s Seoul summit, AU participated and adopted the Seoul Development Consensus for shared economic growth and equal partnership between donors and low-income countries.
African issues received massive support and assistance from the G20 members at the Hangzhou summit. This summit formulated various programs for the African continent. Thus, the Chinese presidency increased its engagement with the continent, bringing out different G20 policies for the continent at the Hangzhou summit held in 2016. Furthermore, China also supported “African industrialization” in the Hangzhou summit communique, the first in G20’s history. China also provided training to African youth. From 2016-2018 China also provided training to 40,000 African people on tech and management skills. Two lakh African technicians acquired training in vocational skills.
The German presidency made Africa’s economic development one of the primary concerns of the Hamburg summit. As a result, the Compact with Africa(CwA) became the conference’s major highlight. It Focused on areas like economic development, growth, sustainability, infrastructure and renewable energy investment, capacity building, employment opportunities for the continent’s youth, knowledge-sharing and building institutions for managing environmental climate change risks, etc. CwA framework also includes systemic investor Response Mechanisms (SIRM) and business arbitration courts, prioritizing investor interest over the public interest.
African states like Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo, and Tunisia, are part of CwA. CwA also included World Bank(WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
CwA was seen as a Marshall Plan for Africa proposed by Germany’s Federal ministry for economic cooperation and development. However, it was not suitable for low-income African countries.
The 2019 G20 Summit, which was held in Osaka (Japan), focused on Infrastructure development, fiscal sustainability, adequate policy response, people-centered development, and investment in human capital. These factors remained very crucial for Africa’s comprehensive growth. During Japan’s G20 presidency, parallelly 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or (TICAD7) was held in Yokohama in August 2019.
TICAD is a platform that promotes high-level policy dialogue between African leaders and Africa’s development partners in Japan. Thus, the TICAD conference assisted G20 Osaka Summit in coordinating and administering every African country more elaborately.
Why G20 needs AU
In the Bali Summit, Indonesia, held in 2022, South African president Cyril Ramphosa called for the African Union (AU) to become a permanent member of the G20. Also, Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current Chairperson of the African Union, has previously called for greater African representation in international bodies like G20. However, many G20 members have supported AU’s permanent membership. European Union’s president Charles Michel decided to support AU’s permanent membership at the G20. The AU status of a guest invitee always limits their participation in policy-making bodies on various international affairs. AU’s permanent membership of G20 is essential as it leads toward holistic solutions for good governance and sustainable development.
The African Union (AU) today represents an economic bloc listed as the eighth largest in the world. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) unites Africa’s 55 economies into a single market. Thus, the G20 needs African nations as they possess essential resources to meet international energy challenges. For instance, 64% of the EU’s Bauxite comes from Guinea, 36% of Tantalum, 68% of Cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 71% of platinum from South Africa.
India’s role in promoting the African agenda at G20:
According to India’s Foreign policy experts, Africa is one of India’s top priorities. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar states, “India thinks that the development of Africa is essential to rebalancing global powers” India’s efforts to build a resilient Africa can be seen in its various programs. For instance, India accounted for 3.7 % of investments made in Africa between 2011 and 2020, making it the eighth-largest investor.
Fig: India’s projected capital investment in Africa
Source: FDI Markets, Financial Times, and India Exim Bank Analysis
According to the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, and Reserve Bank of India (RBI), “Approved cumulative investments made by India in Africa from April 1996 to March 2022 were $73.9 billion”. New Delhi assists the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in developing off-grid solar energy projects in Africa. ISA’s partnership with AfDB African Development Bank to generate 10,000 MW of solar power system in the Sahel Region provides electricity to around 600 million Africans disconnected from electricity facilities.
The pandemic has further emphasized the necessity for collaboration in critical areas like agriculture and agro-processing, renewable energy, healthcare, etc. Africa currently contributes significantly to global value chains by exporting agricultural products and raw natural resources to other nations for processing and value addition in its development.
Over the years, African Union has called for wider representation at the G20. Africa’s growing role in India’s foreign policy is evident from its expanding diplomatic outreach within the continent. India is currently engaging with 43 African states. India has always been vocal about greater African representation at multilateral forums like UNSC, WTO, BRICS, IBSA, etc. Under the G20 presidency, India has the largest-ever representation from Africa with six invitees, Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, the Chair of AU, and the Chair of (AUDA-NEPAD) African Union Development Agency -New Partnership for African Development. Therefore, India is likely to support the African interest at the G20 as India wants to use its G20 presidency to support the need for a global south representation at the multilateral institutions and it aims to achieve this through its sustainable partnerships between developed and developing countries.
In the premier forum for international economic cooperation, G20 plays a significant role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international issues. Therefore institutions like the AU, which represents a bloc of 54 countries with diverse cultures, should be given permanent membership to express their collective interest in the forum. African countries would have a vote in the G20’s decisions on key issues. However, India can step up its game to distinguish itself as Africa’s partner by supporting Africa’s bid for permanent membership at G20. Therefore AU’s incorporation as a permanent member of G20 will benefit G20, Africa, and the world.
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