By Fortune Abang
At its Summit in India recently, the G20 bloc admitted the African Union (AU) as one of its members, making it of two continental bodies (the other being European Union) to be admitted into this body.
As of 2023, there are 21 members in the group: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.
Others include: the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and the African Union.
As the list of its subscribers has shown, the G20 is a power political and economic bloc.
According to a Reuters report formed in 1999, G20 accounts for 80 per cent of global gross domestic production (GDP) and 75 per cent of international trade.
AU’s membership of the group has attracted global reactions from stakeholders in the academia, diplomatic community and governments.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, had at the bloc’s summit in New Delhi advocated full membership for the AU in G20, a proposal that had received wide support from other members.
The move proposed by Modi cited the draft declaration admitting the AU as a permanent member.
Modi said: “The AU was made a permanent member of the G20, comprising the world’s richest and most powerful countries”.
Modi, in his opening remarks at the summit, invited the AU, represented by Chairperson Azali Assoumani, to take a seat at the table of G20 leaders as a permanent member.
“We are honoured to welcome the AU as a permanent member of the G20 Family. This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” Modi said as AU was formally admitted into the elite group.
In line with this, some analysts who spoke at different fora described the move by AU as part of ambitious new plans to connect the continent with the rest of the world.
They added that it was an institutional development, as against distractions perceived by some section of the society.
A key member of the AU, South Africa is already a member of BRICS, seen widely as East’s counter to West’s economic and political dominance, with other members such Ethiopia and Egypt in line to become members.
This has left many stakeholders wondering if the continent is headed for chaos with its major economies subscribing to opposing ideologies.
BRICS, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa represents more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and responsible for 32.1 per cent of global GDP.
A don, Prof. Jonah Onuoha, does not see any conflict of interest in AU membership of G20, saying that it is a step in the right direction.
Onuoha, a professor of International Relations, and Head of Political Science Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Onuoha said it was erroneous to think admission of AU into the group would be work in favour of the West’s counter-move against BRICS `expansionist` move.
“For the Western world to invite Africa to the G20 meeting is laudable, it shows that Africa at last is moving forward, because you cannot be invited into a meeting you are irrelevant.
“The world has found Africa to be a ground for future wealth, as well as a place with abundant resources and they cannot survive without it.
“Admission of Africa into G20 is not in anyway negative, it is a positive development. It shows that Africa, particularly Nigeria has a future and the future is bright”, he said.
In the same vein Nigeria’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, underscored the need for Africa, particularly Nigeria, to consummate the admittance into the bloc.
“There is the need to realise the ambition to join the prestigious bloc and push for a permanent membership, Nigeria and other African nations have to work very hard to earn international recognition and respect”, the diplomat said.
Also speaking, the AU Commission head, Miussa Faki Mahamat, expressed confidence in the potential G20 membership presents to Africa, saying it would allow Africa to respond to global challenges.
According to him, the AU admittance into G20 would allow the continent to contribute more effectively to efforts to tackle challenges.
“This membership, for which we have long been advocating will provide a propitious framework for amplifying advocacy in favour of the continent and its effective contribution to meeting global challenges”, he said.
However, not every expert is excited.
Robert Besseling, Chief Executive-Officer, Pangea-Risk, a South Africa-based intelligence advisory group-based, described AU’s membership into the G20 as a development that could have major implications for Africa’s role in global geopolitics.
He expressed concerns about climate change drive, political instability and economic inequality in Africa, adding that AU admission into such a bloc of world’s largest economies could be counterproductive.
“The G20 is increasingly becoming a counterweight to the China-led BRICS, and the AU’s entry should be viewed in that same context of geopolitical rivalry.
“The AU seat at the G20 will be meaningless, if the African body cannot react decisively to events that include military coups and irregular elections that have set back Africa’s democratic trajectory in recent months”, he said.
Analysts agree that although Africa’s admission into G20 marked deviation from the past status of the continent, more should be done to promote Africa’s development meaningfully on the global stage.
They also contend that more practical steps should be taken to ensure that the continent maximally benefit from the opportunities presented by the bloc.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)