Africa

The African Union has been made a permanent member of the G20 – what does it mean for the continent?

Flags of G20 countries are seen outside the G20 venue before the start of the G20 Summit.

The African Union joins 19 other nations and the EU in the G20. Image: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Chido Munyati
Head of Regional Agenda, Africa, World Economic Forum
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Africa

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  • The African Union (AU) has been made a permanent member of the G20, in a move that has been broadly welcomed for giving the continent an important voice on key global issues.
  • The G20 represents around 85% of global GDP and 75% of global trade, as well as two-thirds of the world’s population, prior to the AU joining.
  • The permanent members of the G20 are now Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States, along with the EU and the AU.

The African Union (AU) has been made a permanent member of the G20, in a move that has been broadly welcomed for giving the continent an important voice on key global issues.

The AU, which was previously an “invited international organization”, was granted full member status at the G20’s summit in Delhi, India at the start of September. The move gives the continent the same status as the European Union, which sits alongside 19 countries including the UK, Russia and the US.

Prior to the AU joining the bloc, South Africa was the only African country to have a seat at the table.

Cleaners walk past a hoarding at the International Media Center during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India.
The African Union joins 19 other nations and the EU in the G20. Image: Reuters
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Giving Africa a voice

The United Nations is among those welcoming the move. “This is a reflection of Africa’s growing influence and importance on the global stage,” said Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General of the UN. “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.”

Kenya’s president William Ruto said the move will increase Africa’s voice, visibility and influence.

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This is seen as particularly important given that some of the world’s greatest challenges are most keenly felt by some of the world’s poorest nations, many of which are in Africa.

Graphs illustrating the top twenty countries with the lowest estimated GDP per capital in 2023.
Many of the world’s poorest nations are in Africa. Image: Statista

For example, Africa suffers disproportionately from the climate crisis, despite being responsible for only a fraction of emissions. The climate emergency is harming food security, ecosystems and economies of nations in the continent. It also increases the threat of conflict over dwindling resources, the World Meteorological Organization says.

Indeed, climate change and environmental-related risks continue to dominate the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, taking up six of the top ten biggest risks perceived to the world over the next decade.

“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,” said South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa, posting on X.

“Climate change, environmental degradation, unsustainable consumption and production and resource scarcity are challenges that can only be addressed collectively and with a great deal of solidarity.”

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G20 becomes G21

The permanent members of the G20 are now Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye, United Kingdom and United States, along with the EU and the AU.

The G20 represents around 85% of global GDP and 75% of global trade, as well as two-thirds of the world’s population, prior to the AU joining.

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Related topics:
AfricaGeopoliticsClimate Change
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