BY ALEX BALUKU
UNITED NATIONS, September 14, 2023 – In a historic move, the African Union (AU) has been granted permanent membership in the Group of Twenty (G20), garnering praise and commendation from the United Nations (UN). This significant development, announced during the G20 summit in Delhi, India, positions the AU as a pivotal voice on global issues alongside established G20 members.
The G20, which collectively represents approximately 85% of global GDP, 75% of global trade, and comprises two-thirds of the world’s population, has expanded its membership to encompass the AU, elevating the continent’s role in shaping international policies.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the UN, warmly welcomed this historic decision, stating, “This is a reflection of Africa’s growing influence and importance on the global stage.” He further emphasized the significance of correcting historical imbalances, remarking, “When much of the existing international multilateral architecture was built, most of Africa was still colonized and did not have an opportunity to have their voices heard. This is another step towards correcting that imbalance.”
Africa’s Enhanced Voice and Influence
The inclusion of the AU as a permanent member of the G20 heralds a new era of African representation in international forums. Until now, South Africa was the sole African nation at the G20 table, but this expansion provides the entire continent with a platform to address pressing global issues.
Kenya’s President, William Ruto, hailed the decision, highlighting the positive impact it will have on Africa’s visibility and influence on the world stage. Given that many of the world’s most critical challenges disproportionately affect some of the poorest nations, which are predominantly found in Africa, the continent’s enhanced presence is particularly crucial.
African Leadership in Climate Action
One area where Africa’s amplified voice is vital is in addressing climate change, a challenge that hits the continent hard, despite contributing only a fraction of global emissions. Climate-related issues have a profound impact on Africa’s food security, ecosystems, and economies, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Moreover, the increased risk of conflict over dwindling resources is a growing concern, as highlighted by the World Meteorological Organization.
Climate change and environmental-related risks remain at the forefront of global concerns, as revealed in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, where six of the top ten perceived risks over the next decade are linked to climate and the environment.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa underlined the significance of Africa’s inclusion, noting, “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.” He stressed the importance of addressing climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable consumption, production, and resource scarcity collectively and with solidarity.
G20 Evolves into G21
With the inclusion of the African Union, the G20 has transformed into the G21, underscoring the increasing recognition of Africa’s role in shaping global governance. The AU represents 55 member states, contributing a combined GDP of $3 trillion and a population of 1.4 billion people.
This evolution of the G20 into a more inclusive forum sends a powerful message about the necessity of global collaboration in addressing shared challenges. It also signals a commitment to hearing the voices and concerns of all regions, particularly those historically underrepresented in international decision-making processes.
As Africa’s role in global affairs continues to expand, leaders from the continent will play a pivotal role in shaping policies that address pressing issues such as climate change, poverty alleviation, inequality reduction, and sustainable development. The AU’s permanent membership in the G20 represents a milestone in advancing the global agenda and fostering greater equity and cooperation on the world stage.