Photograph — CNBC

Some years ago, the prospect of the African Union (AU) shifting from being an “invited international organization” to a permanent member of the G20 would have seemed implausible. However, on Saturday, September 9, this historic change became a reality. The AU, comprising 55 member states, now shares the same status as the European Union, the only regional bloc with full G20 membership.

This development holds immense significance, particularly in the context of Africa’s growing influence on the global stage. It also reflects a broader pattern where African countries have long advocated for a seat at the table in discussions concerning their continent. Now, these appeals are finally being addressed.

Significance of AU’s permanent G20 membership

The AU becoming a permanent member of the G20 provides its leaders with a platform to directly engage the world’s leading economies. This ensures that African perspectives are heard and valued in global decision-making processes. Amb. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, emphasized that Africa now has the opportunity to champion policies addressing its specific challenges and priorities. This includes climate change, trade agreements, and food security. This membership amplifies the continent’s advocacy efforts.

The G20 membership offers African nations access to increased foreign direct investment (FDI) and economic partnerships. It opens doors to investments in critical sectors such as infrastructure, technology, and renewable energy. The intersection of Africa’s security challenges with global security matters becomes a focal point when the AU engages in G20 deliberations regarding security issues, enabling it to tackle regional conflicts, counter-terrorism initiatives, and peacekeeping operations.

Mutual benefits: Why the G20 needs Africa

While the AU’s permanent G20 membership is celebrated as a step in the right direction, it’s important to recognize that the G20 needs the AU just as much. Africa’s GDP currently stands at $3.1 trillion, surpassing India’s. If Africa were a country, it would rank as the fifth-largest economy globally, with its share anticipated to expand. By 2050, approximately one-fourth of the world’s population will live on the continent.

Beyond population size and economic strength, African countries possess distinct assets crucial to helping the G20 achieve its objectives. Of particular significance is Africa’s contribution to the global effort against climate change. The continent holds significant reserves of cobalt, manganese, and platinum—essential components for batteries and clean hydrogen technologies. Africa also boasts extensive solar potential, estimated at 60 per cent of the world’s untapped solar potential due to its extended periods of sunshine. Despite contributing only four per cent of global carbon emissions, several African nations are leading the way in sustainable energy.

Collaborative imperative

Securing a seat at the table is a great feat, but much more is at stake. African representation at this high table is long overdue. The G20 must maximise this opportunity to help Africa unlock its remarkable economic capacity and direct efforts towards addressing critical issues affecting the continent. While the G20’s membership undoubtedly boosts the African Union’s clout both economically and politically, it must ensure that the benefits of this partnership serve Africa’s best interests.

The AU’s transition to a permanent G20 member marks a historic milestone with far-reaching implications. It reflects Africa’s growing economic and geopolitical importance on the global stage. However, it is necessary that both the AU and the G20 collaborate effectively. They must leverage this new membership to promote sustainable development, tackle global challenges, and ensure equitable benefits for Africa and the world.

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