The African Union achieved a historic milestone by securing a permanent seat at the G20 table, marking a significant diplomatic victory. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the host of this year’s G20 summit, made the proposal to admit the AU, and it was met with unanimous approval from member nations.
This development is particularly notable as India, a member of BRICS, has been emphasizing it’s commitment to multi-alignment, maintaining strategic autonomy, and avoiding alignment with any particular camp or alliance while working towards a multipolar world.
Before delivering his opening speech, Prime Minister Modi warmly greeted the African Union Chair and President of Comoros, Azali Assoumani, with a hug.
During his address to the summit, Modi announced the proposal: “India put forward a proposal to grant permanent membership of the G20 to the African Union. I believe we have everyone’s agreement on this. With everyone’s approval, I request the African Union head to take his seat as a permanent G20 member.” Assoumani subsequently assumed his place among world leaders at the invitation of India’s Foreign Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar.
Established in 2002, the AU comprises fifty five African nations representing approximately 1.4 billion people and accounts for around 10% of the world’s economy.
Major infrastructure project in the middle East
In addition to the AU’s historic inclusion, the G20 summit is expected to witness the signing of an agreement in principle for a significant sea and rail transport project spanning the Middle East.
The project aims to connect India to Europe and is set to involve the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the EU, and other G20 partners.
This initiative is seen as a response to China’s New Silk Roads (Belt and Road Initiative), with notable absences from the summit being Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Furthermore, this development coincides with U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, following similar agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.
According to U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, this project holds immense potential and has been the result of months of careful diplomacy.
Challenges on geopolitical and climate fronts
The inclusion of the African Union and the potential infrastructure project in the Middle East are expected to add complexity to G20 deliberations, especially concerning issues like Russia’s role and climate change.
Developing countries, which are disproportionately affected by climate change and food insecurity, are keenly watching G20 discussions on these critical issues.
South African President Ramaphosa highlighted that developing economies are often the first to suffer the consequences of climate change despite having the least responsibility for it.
Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also underscored the “unprecedented climate emergency” facing the world due to insufficient environmental commitments, citing recent floods in Brazil as an example.
Amnesty International had earlier cautioned that the G20’s failure to make solid commitments on climate change would be potentially catastrophic. The G20 represents 85% of global GDP and is responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthermore, a report under the auspices of the UN Climate Organization called for urgent action to address the climate crisis, emphasizing that much more needs to be done on all fronts.
In a separate event, Africa’s first climate summit in Nairobi appealed to the international community for investment and reform of the global financial system to unlock the continent’s potential in the fight against global warming.