The G20, founded in 1999, is an organisation comprised of 19 countries and the European Union (EU). The organisation’s purpose is to tackle global economic crises like the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members account for over 80% of world GDP, 75% of international trade, and 60% of the world’s population. It is reasonable to expand the current G20 arrangement to accommodate Africa as a bloc through the African Union.
Jeffrey Sachs, a Sustainable Development Goals advisor, before the United Nations Food Systems Summit held on 26 July 2021 in Italy, similarly proposed that the G20 include Africa to form the G21.
Although South Africa is one of the non-EU countries and the only African country in the organisation, the African Union ought to be included to represent Africa in the same way the EU represents its member states. Africa has diverse challenges and issues and deserves collective representation that a single country may not represent adequately.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Union development agency, should present its common position to the proposed G21 for consideration through the AU chairperson. Africa is part of the global economy, which the G20 aims to foster. The G20 would be unable to promote international economic cooperation without Africa, representing 17% of the world population.
With the African Union joining the G20, Africa will lobby for balanced trade with other partners, and negotiate for similar rates on World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans. If African countries push this successfully, they will accrue some savings on interest rates. These savings could develop the African economy instead of repaying loans year in year out.
By joining the G21, Africa would showcase promising innovations and seek collaboration and adoption of the same by other G20 member states. An example would be the mobile money transfer service Mpesa that has revolutionised trade through the ease and convenience of money transfers. Kenya, through the African Union, would share and exchange knowledge on smart cities such as the Konza city during G20 forums, such as the G20 Innovation League.
Africa would also benchmark, share, and learn from other G20 member states on enhancing women leadership and empowerment in the private sector through alliances between G20 governments and business leaders across G20 countries as stipulated in G20 Empower.
The G20’s Finance Track focuses on monetary, financial, economic, and tax issues. Through the African Union, Africa would be better positioned to take notes on possible policy formulations and interventions for economic recovery, especially due to the COVID-19 disruptions and beyond.
In addition, by having a seat at the G20, Africa would address and exchange notes with other members on the adoption and regulation of emerging digital assets such as cryptocurrencies. The idea is still novel for many citizens in Africa.
During the pre-Summit meeting of the UN Food Systems Summit that took place on 23 September 2021, Rwandese President Paul Kagame indicated that the central goal is to stop Africa’s overreliance on food imports and create new jobs in the food economy. Support from G20 members in achieving this would be beneficial, in line with supporting G2O’s critical agenda of economic cooperation.
Africa has a lot to offer to the G20. Ghana and Kenya have relative political stability and diversification of their economies, and are hence attractive to investors. Nigeria and Ethiopia have over 350 million people combined, providing a ready market. South Africa is the most developed African country and has strong capital markets. This is just to name a few.
Further, African countries need to curb rampant corruption and embezzlement of public resources. The saved funds can support local manufacturing of products to diversify the trading portfolio of African countries with other countries, including the proposed G21 members, making the African Union an attractive strategic member.
It will also help lobby for strategic partnerships such as trade instead of aid to achieve Agenda 2063, which calls for an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
Africa will soon join other emerging market economies and must be on the negotiating table for pro-African Union agenda policies. In summary, the key benefit has a voice by joining the global powers in making decisions on crucial matters such as food security, trade, climate change, and sustainable development goals.
The proposal for admission of the African Union as the 21st entity to G20 is timely. The African Union should lobby the G20 as a strategic partner and be added to negotiate for African interests as a bloc.