Let Africa set its priorities after joining the G-20 as a grouping

U.S President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz greet each other during the first working session of the G20 leaders' summit in Nusa Dua, Indonesia on  Nov 15, 2022. [ AP Photo]

The African Union has just joined the G-20 as a permanent member.

On September 9th 2023, the Prime Minister of India, which is the Presiding State this year, made the announcement and welcomed current AU chairman, Comoros President Azali Assoumani. 

The AU became the second regional grouping to be admitted to the G-20. The first was the European Union.

The move was ongoing in the past year, when the past AU chair and the EU, were pursuing the admission. 

India, in fulfilment of one of its core aims during its presidency to move the G-20 to the concerns of the Global South, worked to complete the step.

The admission is an acknowledgement and an opportunity. It is an acknowledgement of Africa’s key position in the global economy.

It is an acknowledgement that the G-20 need to be more representative of the global population. The continent is the largest significant source of strategic minerals enabling the future in this century. 

It is an opportunity to admit to the great part of Africa’s resources in the global economy as well as the proper returns to the continent of the benefits of those resources.

In the context of the primacy of the goals of the Global South what may be expected to emerge are more loans to developing nations by multilateral institutions, ways to manage more equitably the international debt structure.

But it also has a major political direction affecting the continent that will play out in coming decades.

By reason of the presence within the G20 of the ‘deepening strategic partnership’ between India and the US, both Africa and the Global South will have available to them room to find an alternative to or an accommodation with their present and future dependence only on China.

It will also be opportunity to bring closer inter-African co-operation for pooling of resources and better negotiation.

There is a greater energy and more safeguards in acting as the AU, or through the AU, than the sum of energy and safety of its 55 parts.

We need to hear from those in power in Kenya: What are the additional goals Kenya is setting herself as part of the AU membership of G-20?

What is being done this coming year to maximise the opportunities arising through that membership?

These issues must be answered because we in Africa have in the past set goals and worthwhile programmes on, for example, UN Sustainable Development Goals, or the goals of the African 2063 Agenda, but which do not realise targeted percentages in their targeted time periods.

Therefore, the admission of the AU in the G-20 without the concomitant hard work to follow up on the part of the Ministries concerned, particularly trade, (headed as it is, by a CS who is a persona non grata for a major player at the G-20), and finance, the admission will not be as much a force for progress for us as it is intended to be.

Awareness of the new portal by the private sector, and the ambition of and effective delivery by our manufacturers and businesspersons must be assisted.

Is the government support in form of information, lobbying and subsidies at both the AU and at G-20, prohibited in any manner by the IMF conditionalities imposed on us? 

To reach the scale at which the input of African countries would be effective, (to be both heard in, and to benefit at, G-20), would need the coming together of African countries to partner to realise common goals.

Thus, Kenya needs to recalibrate the amount of inter-African and inter-regional partnering it is willing to invest in.

Its present performance is not enough, and it does not have a reputation for enthusiastic partnership.

Its walk on African togetherness does not match its all-too-fluent talk at public continental ceremonies, like recent speeches at the climate conference.

We need to re-define ourselves more sharply: Are we aiming to be also a working African component of an African grouping or are we aiming only to be the darling of the IMF? 

With the AU’s permanent membership at the G 20, and with hardworking and visionary economic and finance leaders in Kenya, we may just be able to do both!

The writer is senior counsel