Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States in June made headlines on several accounts. One of them was US President Joe Biden’s endorsement of the idea of making the African Union (AU) a permanent member of the G20 – to form the G21. This initiative of African integration represents a core element of India’s 2023 G20 legacy and exemplifies its commitment to the theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family). Having been widely accepted by several G20 leaders, the initiative has paved the way for discourse on what exactly this means for both Africa and the rest of the world, and how India is the right partner to help build bridges for global integration.
The subject of Africa’s integration journey is a bi-dimensional one tethered to diplomatic and economic integration. Diplomatic integration entails giving the AU a larger voice on the world stage. Global governance architecture has had its foundation in representation through sheer economic size, thus spearheaded for long by developed nations, or the ‘Global North.’ Representing about 85% of the world’s population, the ‘Global South’ has been working towards presenting a united front, pushing for reforms in governance and wider representation of the interests of developing economies.
Economic integration of the continent is critical for the world in myriad ways. More than 50% of the projected increase in global population up to 2050 (8 billion to 9.7 billion) will originate solely from Sub-Saharan African nations, underscoring the pivotal role that Africa’s youth, workforce and economy will assume in the time to come.
There are only seven years left to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This brings the subject of African integration to the forefront, given that the continent is home to 33 of the world’s 46 least developed countries. While progress on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) continues, Africa remains geographically, logistically and economically fragmented. Bringing the AU into the G20 is an ideal first step towards strengthening both diplomatic and economic integration, and a giant leap forward in reinstalling multilateral trust.
The AU can make its voice heard not only on matters of geopolitical significance, but also on high-priority subjects ranging from climate finance and a just energy transition to the need for reforms in the Bretton Woods institutions, among others, which directly affect the continent’s interests.
India’s successful journey in driving socio-economic development for its citizens, especially through harnessing the power of digital technologies, presents a valuable blueprint that could be leveraged to empower African nations, fostering inclusive growth and sustainable progress across the continent. India’s approach to soft power is non-intrusive and based on partnership, which aligns well with the aspirations of African nations. These factors lay down the case for India being the ideal partner in Africa’s larger integration journey.
The creation of a dedicated Action Council on African Economic Integration under the Business20 (B20) engagement group by India’s 2023 presidency has been another noteworthy initiative. While encouraging the global business community to address the need and potential of Africa’s integration, this paves the way to strengthening the voice of Africa’s businesses on the global scene. Complemented by recent initiatives like the African Business Leaders Coalition (ABLC), which is the first pan-Africa partnership of CEOs, this would allow African interests to play a steering role in discourse across forums, around modern-day priorities.
That being said, one must acknowledge that the integration journey will have its challenges. AU member states will have to accord due flexibility and agility to the AU Secretariat to present a united front on pressing global matters, despite the prevalence of differing opinions. The AU will also have to strike the right balance between continental priorities (under Agenda 2063) and global priorities that may not always be perfectly aligned. It will also need to strategically strengthen diplomatic relations with individual G20 nations, to receive support and endorsement on critical priorities.
However, the benefits of African Integration far outweigh any potential challenges. Embracing potential is not just Africa’s opportunity, but a collective global imperative to nurture a continent that holds the key to a brighter future for us all. Through forums like the G20 and B20, the world can show its commitment to enabling the continent’s transformation by building and strengthening bridges of integration.
Source : Mint