Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Tuesday, September 26, 2023

ANALYSIS: AU plunges into turbulent G20

by admin
ANALYSIS: AU plunges into turbulent G20

The African Union (AU) will likely be admitted as a permanent member of the G20 at the latter’s summit in New Delhi this weekend. To date, the AU has only attended summits of the G20 – the world’s foremost club for addressing global issues – as a guest.

The G20 comprises 19 of the world’s ‘systemically’ most important economies plus the European Union (EU). South Africa is an outlier, brought in largely to represent Africa.

But now Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is hosting the gathering, and other key G20 leaders, have backed the AU’s bid for a permanent seat. The continental body looks fairly certain to be accepted into what would presumably become the G21.

The Chief Executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs, Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, suggests that inviting the AU in is something of a guilty charm offensive by G20 leaders. This is because of its ‘double standards, of its rhetorical support for developing country concerns, which have not been matched by action (such as vaccine apartheid, debt sustainability and development finance), and of its own violation of some of the principles of the UN Charter when it suited it.

Even so, the AU would be joining at a fraught moment in the G20’s history, as the elite club increasingly exhibits symptoms of fracturing under the pressure of a polarising global order.

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend last year’s summit in Indonesia and is not expected at this one either, because of tensions with the West since Russia invaded Ukraine. And there are now strong suggestions that Chinese President Xi Jinping won’t be at the summit, though that hasn’t been officially announced. Whether this is because of friction with the United States, India or both, is not clear.

John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, told ISS Today he was sure Mr Xi would not attend because of competition with Mr Modi about who should represent and lead the global south. Some of those tensions were apparent at last month’s BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Obstacles, limitations of BRICS expansion

That meeting was deemed a success for Africa as Egypt and Ethiopia were admitted to BRICS, along with four other countries. The bloc’s membership expanded for the first time since accepting South Africa in 2010.

TEXEM Advert

BRICS Plus, or the BRICS11, boasted that it now had a bigger collective gross domestic product in purchasing power parity terms than the G7. But as British economist Jim O’Neill, author of the BRICs concept, told Daily Maverick last week, the important thing was not for the G7 or BRICS to be stronger than the other. It was to ensure that the G20, which encompasses both of them and other major countries, functions properly.

Which it is not doing at the moment, evidenced by its failure to address Russia’s aggression against Ukraine head-on. Yet the G20 has become more important than ever because the United Nations, particularly its Security Council, have been paralysed, mainly by the Ukraine war.

So the AU would be entering choppy waters, forced to navigate the Ukraine issue, rising tensions between China and the West, and seemingly now also those between China and India.

Africa does not have a common position (unsurprisingly) on any of those issues. That is true of other countries and regions too, but the AU would be in a unique position. Its membership has been advocated largely on the grounds that the EU is already a member. But the EU is different because it’s a supranational and not just an intergovernmental body like the AU, and so has a more (though not completely) coherent foreign policy.

The EU also has a more focused institutional structure. It is represented at the G20 (and elsewhere) by both the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and its EU Council President, Charles Michel. The AU would be represented by the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, and AU Chairperson, Comoran President Azali Assoumani.

The difference though is that the AU chair rotates every year, while the EU Council president is elected for a two-and-a-half-year term, which can be renewed once. This gives the position continuity that the rotating AU chair lacks.

As a result, says Paul-Simon Handy, ISS Regional Director for East Africa and AU representative, and analyst Félicité Djilo, the AU should be represented at the G20 by the AU Commission chairperson. As a long-term position, it provides the necessary continuity. Others have suggested having a former head of state represent the AU for a multi-year term.

Kogi AD

These analysts all agree the AU would have a lot of preparatory work for G20 membership, including formulating common African positions. As Handy and Djilo observe, the G20 covers a range of subjects, and so the AU would have to devise policies on many issues it probably has not considered, such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Or worse, issues it is deeply divided on, like whether Israel should be an observer at the AU.

Many matters before the G20 are, however, extremely pertinent to Africa, like global tax reform and other methods of tackling illicit financial flows, debt relief, addressing climate change and democratising international financial institutions.

Either way, this will require assembling the sort of infrastructure South Africa – currently the only African representative – has had to mobilise for its G20 membership, including appointing sherpas, facilitating think tanks and the like.

Dangote adbanner 728x90_2 (1)

The AU and the global south are clear in their demands for a greater voice in global economic and political governance – and rightly so. Gaining a seat at the G20 table will give the AU a chance to redress these deficits. But it will also test whether the AU can translate rhetoric into reality.

Peter Fabricius, Consultant, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria

(This article was first published by ISS Today, a Premium Times syndication partner. We have their permission to republish).

Support PREMIUM TIMES’ journalism of integrity and credibility

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.


TEXT AD: Call Willie – +2348098788999

PT Mag Campaign AD

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy