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The African Union Joins The G20

As difficult as it will be for the AU to speak with one voice for 55 countries, the decision at the recent G20 Summit in India to admit the AU as a full member to the club is a major step forward. The G20 already included the European Union as well as: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, SA, Türkiye, the UK, and the USA. Readers will note that a full one third of the members are also members of the enlarged BRICS (see above). G20 is not, however, a trade block (then again is BRICS primarily a trade alliance?).

According to the Indian chair of G20 the body is expected to arrive at significant consensus to reform the multilateral trading system, create robust supply chains, promote micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and help people in the developing and least developed countries prosper on the principle of equity. The question then arises, are the top 21 countries/political groupings setting themselves up to replace bodies such as the WTO, which has been struggling for some time to fulfil its role as the go-to UN body able to solve trade disagreements and promote global trade? In response to that question, the final declaration, ‘Unlocking trade for growth,’ the G20 leaders “reaffirm[ed] that a rules-based, non-discriminatory, fair, open, inclusive, equitable, sustainable and transparent multilateral trading system, with WTO at its core, is indispensable. We will support policies that enable trade and investment to serve as an engine of growth and prosperity for all”.

The good news is that the African continent is at last recognised as important in a world which relies so heavily on both the minerals and agricultural products sourced from Africa. According to political commentators, SA views the G20 not as a replacement to the formal institutions of global governance such as the UN, but rather as a significant mechanism for building consensus among important powers to overcome hurdles in the formal structures. This sounds rather like a parallel universe, in which a large number of countries are excluded from the high table. However, that might just be a linguistic quibble.


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Alastair Tempest

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