Having admitted the African Union (AU) as a permanent member, the Group of 20 (G20) took a historical step forward in improving global governance and revitalizing international economic cooperation.
The expansion, agreed by G20 members on Saturday, gives developing countries a greater voice and more representation. More cooperation and development opportunities will gravitate toward the Global South as China and other major economies have pledged staunch support for the region to shine in the global arena.
TAKING THE SEAT
Amid cheers and applause from the global leaders in attendance, AU Chairperson, Comorian President Azali Assoumani, assumed his seat representing the 55-member continental body at the inaugural session of the 18th G20 summit held in New Delhi on Saturday.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki hailed the entry, saying it would amplify the continent's advocacy and contributions to meeting global challenges.
The G20, founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises, is a major forum to discuss financial and economic issues. It previously comprised 19 countries plus the European Union (EU).
Granting membership to the AU will give it the same status as the EU, up from its previous designation of "invited international organization."
Experts said permanent G20 membership signals the rise of the African continent, whose young population of over 1 billion is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the world's total.
"This move really boosts the G20's influence on the global economy and underscores its contribution to human social development," said Wirun Phichaiwongphakdee, director of the Thailand-China Research Center of the Belt and Road Initiative.
PAVING THE ROAD
Mathapelo Monaisa, a member of the South African delegation to the G20 summit, appreciated China's role in supporting the AU's entry into the group. "I'm seeing something really great happening," Monaisa said.
China was the first country to explicitly express its support for the AU's membership of the G20, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular press conference on Thursday.
At the China-Africa Leaders' Dialogue in Johannesburg last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that China would work actively to support the AU's full membership of the bloc.
China supports the AU in playing a more significant role in global governance, Mao added.
Joseph Matthews, a senior professor at the Beltei International University in Phnom Penh, said the move would inject fresh impetus into China-Africa ties.
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"Through this staunch support, the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Africa will be deeper-rooted," he said, noting that China has been the biggest investor and donor to the continent for decades.
"China is a friend that Africa can count on. Over the past decade, China has provided a large amount of development assistance to Africa and helped build more than 6,000 km of railway, over 6,000 km of highway, and 80-plus large power facilities on the continent," Xi said at a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in August.
Cavince Adhere, a Kenya based international relations scholar, noted that "as a developing country, China has stood with and continues to champion the rights of other developing countries, especially those from the Global South."
Adhere said that initiatives launched and proposed by China to support development programs among the emerging economies have proved China is "a leading champion of rights of weak states."
"China has always offered respect, appreciation and support for Africa, and the Chinese people have shared weal and woe and mutual assistance with African people," Matthews said.
Underscoring China's role in supporting the AU's entry into the group, Matthews said "this move will pave the way and open the doors to new foreign direct investments in economic and infrastructure development in the continent."
ANSWERING THE CALL
Many countries welcomed the AU's entry into the G20, stressing their long-time support in bolstering Africa's voice.
The decision "represents a valuable step for the prevalence of effective multilateralism in international relations," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Keith Bennett, an international relations consultant based in London, said supporting the AU's inclusion in the G20 is "a matter of both justice and pragmatism."
"It reflects the fact that developing countries are no longer content or prepared to be merely 'rule takers' in a so-called 'rules-based international order,' devised and enforced by a handful of Western powers to serve their own narrow interests," said Bennett.
"With changes in the world unseen in a century, the G20 can only maintain and enhance its relevance if it is truly representative. This is not possible without proper African representation," he added.
Phichaiwongphakdee said AU's inclusion also sets an example for developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region to participate more actively in the global economy. "The increasing participation of more developing countries in global governance will be a global development trend."
Senegalese sociologist Mamadou Diouf said all developing countries should unite to create economic growth, sustainable development and green economies.
"No developing country alone can approach the shift toward sustainable development and emergence without linking up with others," Diouf said.