Council for Strategic Affairs

Council for Strategic Affairs

Enter the African Union – AU

By Nakshatra Jagannath & Dr. A Adityanjee

Background

The G-20 is an influential intergovernmental forum comprising 19 different countries and the European Union. And now with the African Union as the 21st member, a reformed G-21 comprises of some of the World’s leading economic giants. This forum addresses global economic issues such as international financial stability, sustainable development and issues relating to climate change mitigation. Earlier, the G-20 forum had only one African Country-South Africa. This move reflects a just, fair, and more inclusive and representative global economic architecture and governance. The AU is home to over 3 dozen of the world’s least developed and most backward countries and is plagued by poverty, issues relating to climate change, healthcare crisis, and allied problems. These challenges need to be countered with viable and swift solutions in an efficient and effective manner. Being a permanent member of such a diverse, strengthened, and influential economic and developmental forum is going to prove to be in African Union’s favor in every respect. The African Union will now have the backing of the influential G-20 which will support it economically, technologically, and otherwise help mitigate problems of Africa. The reinvigorated forum will provide each and every viable and genuine impetus required to counter problems in the African region and propel prosperity.

Introduction to Strategic Partnership 

The G-20 under Bharat’s presidency has seen remarkable success. One such landmark feat was the admission of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G-20. It is now set to officially become G-21. This move is lauded for amplifying the voice of the global south and practicing inclusivity in the right manner thereby setting an international precedent. Under Bharat’s G-20 presidency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made this historic announcement and welcomed the African Union into the G-20 as a permanent member- a status, the African Union was struggling hard to achieve over the last several years. The AU had been invited as a guest to the G-20 for the last several years while the European Union, a group of 27 developed European countries, had been a permanent member of the G-20 since beginning. This inclusion is set to have global impact and will amplify the needs and the voice of the global south. The African Union brings to the table the voice of 1.4 billion people and represents 3 trillion USD economy of the fastest growing region with a projected 4 percent growth rate. This membership will also play a pivotal role in Africa’s work towards implementing agenda 2030 and 2063, mobilizing technology transfer, climate finance, and seeking reforms at its financial institutions. It will also help to actuate the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Welcoming this milestone in the UN general assembly’s 78th session on September 26th, 2023, the Minister for External Affairs, Dr. S Jaishankar reiterated the need for making the UN Security Council permanent membership more contemporary.

On the other side of the Handshake the African Union being a continental group of 55 countries has always been guided by its vision. To quote – 

An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

This permanent membership at the G-20 will take the AU miles towards achieving its vision in true sense and provide a key forum for presenting the needs and aspirations of the African countries and people. After the inclusion of the AU, the refurbished G-20 (or the G-21) is now a forum that accounts for 80 percent of the world’s population, 97 of 193 members of the United Nations, representing 88 percent of global GDP, and nearly 80 percent of trade share.

The inclusion of the AU strikes a balance and turns off the prevailing euro-centric narrative. Shifting the traditional focus of the G-20 from Europe and European problems being projected as the world’s problems propels the Indian narrative of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or the “one world, one family, one future”. No one forgets the objections China raised in the preparatory work before the New Delhi summit in opposing this motto for the G-20 meeting.

View Points and Implications

  • China, Bharat and the African Union

To understand the relevance of this move from Bharat’s perspective, we need to understand and highlight the fact that China has had a major head-start in the region owing to decade old BRI. China has a vast African footprint in terms of projects, investments, and bilateral engagement. Bharat was able to checkmate Chinese designs to adopt delaying tactics and put roadblocks. China wanted to delay the final decision to 2024 during Brazil’s presidency of the G-20. China wished to deny Bharat the ultimate honor of welcoming the AU into the reformed G-20 platform. However, Bharat has now emerged as the leader of the developing and the underdeveloped countries and is de facto the new voice of the global south. Bharat has countered China and its influence in the African region wisely by taking a step towards wooing the 55 countries of the African Union.

  • Implications for Africa

For Africa, this is a dream come true. It has now finally got what it lobbied and requested for the last many years. It is now a rightful and an equal member at the global high table of discussions, debate, and developments. A voice that is now much stronger and backed by the world than prior to this landmark announcement. Moreover, analogous to Bharat, Africa is key in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). African continent is one of the richest continents with tremendous natural resources like land, minerals, and a sizeable young population, full of potential.

The African Union must now utilize and capitalize on this new global positioning and forge a better positioning with global financial institutions like the World Bank. It should seek technology transfer and climate financing and support in debt reduction from the G20 and other institutions including BRI. The African Union must also re-calibrate some of its goals and its vision in line with that of the G20.

  • Implications for Bharat

Backing from the AU shall also play a pivotal role in garnering consensus and votes as Bharat skillfully lobbies and tactfully battles for a permanent membership at the United Nations Security Council. Earlier, Bharat’s quest for a permanent membership was Bharat’s national project; it shall now be viewed to be in the interest of the global south too. Bharat will also strengthen its economic, diplomatic, political, and bilateral engagement with Africa in a strategic manner after this achievement. Bharat shall seek to counter the footprint of the dragon in the region and contribute to off-setting process effectively and efficiently. This milestone is also a vital component of Bharat’s Africa reach-out initiative. Bharat has had multiple ministerial level visits to the countries of the AU and the Prime Minister Modi has visited at-least 10 of the 55 African countries in the last 9 years. All this hard work meticulously gave shape to Bharat’s international positioning and strengthening it year after year, one step at a time.

Bharat now has the sold support of 55 African countries which shall prove pivotal in various international forums, summits, meetings, and blocs. Bharat historically has a record of sealing the best of partnerships and building the best of allies into trusted partners by patiently cultivating them without economic exploitation.

A closer look at Prime Minister Modi’s speech at the G20 also sheds light on his skillful assessment of the global situation. Bharat’s standing on the continuation of the war in Ukraine is much better understood. It highlights the need to combat multifold growth in trust-deficit which can be overcome analogous to the Covid-19 pandemic. Modi also reiterated the imperative need to work together for a better future and the need of the hour- ‘human centric development’. This and the historic AU milestone, have resulted in Bharat rightfully becoming a global leader by bringing the world together, voice of the global south by amplifying the voice of developing, and the underdeveloped nations, emerging as a champion for their cause and the creator of a new world order in the 21st century.

Nakshatra Jagannath
CSA Training Fellow at the Council for Strategic Affairs. He is based in Kolkata, Bharat.

Dr. A Adityanjee
President of the Council for Strategic Affairs. He is based in Cleveland, OH, USA.

Conclusion

To point the next channel of partnerships, Bharat must continue to further build upon trade and strategic partnership with Africa and garner support at world forums such as the United Nations. Bharat also must continue to strive as the leader of the global south and champion of the cause of the under-developed and the developing nations and shape the creation of a new world order devoid of colonial mindset.

To conclude, Bharat and Africa share historic and cultural ties, this move has indeed made history, and will journal the annals of history thereby strengthening the partnership, and bond between the two civilizations.