The G-20 can become the G-21 by adding African representation

From the G-20 to the United Nations, Africa‘s agency and decision-making competence is barely recognised, especially in economic terms.

Considered a region, as Europe often is, Africa is the world’s eighth largest economy and, by 2063, the continent aims to become the world’s third largest economy. Simply put, it would mean becoming the Japan of the world right now and putting the continent ahead of countries like Germany, France, India and the UK in terms of economic power.

This fact has huge implications for how the global economic decision-making order is structured today and by 2063. In these forums, African countries have often been seen as passive recipients of support or, at most , partners to consult on specific issues. The idea that Africans might have interests beyond their own region, or have a say in the global order, is rare. As a result, international bodies that could benefit from African voices often exclude or marginalize them.

From the G-20 to the United Nations, Africa’s agency and decision-making competence is barely recognised, especially in economic terms.

Considered a region, Europe is often, Africa is the eighth largest economy in the world, and by 2063 the continent aims to become the third largest in the world. In other words, it would increasingly mean being the Japan of the world right now and putting the continent ahead of the people of Germany, France, India and the UK in terms of economic power.

This fact has huge implications for how the global economic decision-making order is structured today and by 2063. In these forums, African countries have often been seen as passive recipients of support or, at most , partners to consult on specific issues. The idea that Africans might have interests beyond their own region, or have a say in the global order, is rare. As a result, international bodies that could benefit from African voices often exclude or marginalize them.

For example, at the International Monetary Fund, only two executive directors contribute to major global financial decisions on behalf of 46 African members (six of the other African countries, including Ghana, are represented by regional directors from the Middle East, while Cape Town -Green is set in Latin America and the Caribbean), while 22 other directors speak for the rest of the world. In the UN Security Council, no African country has a permanent seat, and instead African countries have to change representation every two years for only three seats out of a total of 15 – disproportionate given that the African Member States represent nearly 28% of the entire United Nations. membership.

Even on the African Development Bank’s Board of Directors, a simple majority decision can be achieved with only three of the nine African representatives, due to the voting power of non-African representatives. The influential “Paris Club”, which has no African members but has taken decisions on debt relief for many African countries, do not allow any borrowers in the room while decisions are being made.

The G-20 is however a very particular case, because if it also reflects this same marginalization of African countries, it includes only one African member, South Africa (now the continent’s third largest economybehind Nigeria and Egypt) – the G-20 has also granted regional membership to the European Union.

Created in 1999 shortly after the Asian financial crisis, 19 governments, together with the heads of the European Commission and the European Council as representatives of the EU region, have since met regularly to discuss and coordinate their financial policies and internal economies, with a view to having a stabilizing and positive effect on the rest of the world. Over time, the G-20 has coordinated other types of policy areas. For example, since the UK presidency in 2009, the G-20 has reached agreements on climate issues, some of which eventually entered the UN negotiations until 2021. G-20 trade ministers meetings are now held regularly.

However, just like the work of the UN Security Council, where Africa is mainly the subject of its meetings, outcome documents and resolutions, the G-20 has become increasingly proactive on Africa. The Chinese presidency in 2016 launched work on supporting the industrialization of African countries, while the German presidency in 2017 launched the G-20 Compact With Africa to promote private investment in Africa. More recently, in 2021, the Italian presidency hosted the first advisory group for Africa.

The problem is that, just like in the UN Security Council, all these G-20 initiatives confine Africa to a passive, advisory or, at best, diminutive role. Even the new “advisory group” has 12 non-G20 African members but is co-chaired by a non-African and includes institutions such as the IMF and the OECD (the latter which has no African members), thus diluting the African voice.

This marginalization in decision-making matters. Despite its importance as the eighth largest economy, the African continent is marginalized in the current world order. The 55 members of the African Union, representing more than 1.3 billion people, together account for less than 4% of global trade, foreign direct investment, global emissions and even public debt. When it comes to public goods, Africa is even more marginalized.3% of global vaccines supplied so far and 2% of global renewable energy production. These results are not only due to Africa’s levels of development; they are also due to international rules – discussed and agreed upon in rooms, such as those of the G-20 hosts, in which Africans are hardly represented, if at all.

This means that while countries like Italy, Canada, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia all have smaller economies than the African region, through their G-20 membership they can have direct impacts on global challenges that African nations – with the exception of South Africa – cannot. Latin America and Europe each have at least three countries represented in the G-20, and the latter also has its own regional representative.

Regional representation is very relevant for Africa. Like the European Union, the African continent could easily be represented at the G-20 by the elected chairperson of the African Union Commission – currently Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad – and the annually rotating chairperson of the AU, still a chief African statesman and president. Macky Sall of Senegal for 2022. AU representatives could receive their mandate through the annual meetings of African Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which recently concluded. .

Moreover, while the African Union in economic terms is significantly smaller than the EU and integration has arguably progressed more slowly, the objectives of member states in the annual meetings are usually formulated in regional terms under the Agenda banner. 2063, the continent’s comprehensive development plan. As part of this plan, for example, the continent has developed a major flagship project, the largest African Continental Free Trade Zone-World Free Trade Area by membership operational since January 2021 and which is expected to significantly boost growth. economy and employment across the continent.

Like the EU, the AU, through its Agenda 2063, also envisions monetary union, as well as various infrastructural, political and cultural integration efforts. With a growing population, estimated at 2.5 billion by 2050, Agenda 2063 envisions the continent becoming the global hub for manufactured goods in much the same way China is now, but with a greener hue. . The fact is, the continent has decision-making capacity – and its leaders know best how to harness that capacity, not just for the continent but for the rest of the world.

African leaders have much to offer to global decision-making forums, beyond the continent’s pure economic potential or existing sources of economic growth, drawing on the working methods and experiences of African businesses and citizens. .

Take the environment. Africa does not just have large carbon sinks in the form of forests or vulnerability to climate change due to its current dependence on agriculture. The continent has a global offer. Estimates from the International Renewable Energy Agency suggest that Africa could supply 40% of global solar potential and more than 10% of global wind capacity by 2050.

Indeed, African countries are often ahead of others globally on key environmental issues – 34 African countries have passed laws ban single-use plastic bagsand 30 are formally considering carbon neutrality by 2050 or earlier. Global environmental decisions would benefit enormously from this experience.

The governance models used in African countries also hold lessons – for example, Rwanda’s truth and reconciliation process is considered a leading model for justice in the world. And African leaders and scientists have been at the forefront of managing COVID-19, especially in developing countries.

For too long, the multilateral agenda has been set by others on behalf of Africa, despite the continent’s current global importance and planned future. Recognition of Africa’s decision-making capacity and agency – for example, by becoming the 21st member of the G-20 – could make a huge difference.

For Africa to achieve African goals, African leaders must demand that their agency be integrated into the current global structures of international relations. Otherwise, African countries could remain marginalized, never escape the poverty traps that many outside the continent imagine as inevitable, and never realize the vision of the AU’s Agenda 2063. Likewise, however, multilateralism will not improve without creating a stronger role and voice for African countries.

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