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Africa admitted to G20, what does it mean?

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The Group of 20 of the world’s leading economies has agreed today to admit the African Union (AU) as a permanent member of the G-20. The AU asked to become a member of such a Forum about seven years ago, but it was never considered by the other economies, not even as an observer. Until now, South Africa was the only African country member of the G-20.

The G-20 is an intergovernmental forum comprised of 19 sovereign countries, the European Union (EU) and now also the African Union (AU). It meets in annual summits to address major issues related to the global economy and for coordinating policies in some areas of mutual interest. The admission of the AU to the G-20 signals the raising geopolitical importance and consideration by the global community for a continent that is today unanimously considered as the last frontier for development, witnessed by the increasing interest that in the latest years Africa has attracted from every corner of the world, as the numerous business fora organized in the latest years show. Granting the African Union membership in the G-20 is a step that recognizes the continent as a global power in itself, despite the political instability and insecurity problems that unfortunately still characterize some regions, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The admission to the G-20 will allow Africa to actively participate to the decision-making process on the governance of the global economy, on key topics such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, sustainable development and others.

It worth to be mentioned that Africa is enormously rich in mineral commodities, having more than 60% of the world's uncultivated arable land and a huge, unexploited, potential in the production of agricultural goods. Moreover, about 30% of the world's mineral resources are in Africa, especially those that are important for the environmental and energy transition. For instance, Congo alone has sourced about 70 per cent of global cobalt supply in 2020, as an UNCTAD report recently revealed (page 104). Eight per cent of the world’s natural gas and 12 per cent of the world’s oil reserves are also concentrated in the continent. Last but not least, 60% of the world’s renewable energy assets are in Africa.

The challenge now it will be to find a common position among the AU's member states, as the block has so far struggled to speak with ‘one voice’, due to the extreme differences in levels of development and economic systems of its member States, combined with a strong resistance to delegate responsibilities and portions of sovereignty to the AU.

Africa will need to find a convergence of interests and leverage the power of collective action if it wants to influence G-20 decisions: a challenge that is not easy to achieve.

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