The group of the world’s 20 leading economies is welcoming the African Union as a permanent member, a powerful acknowledgement of Africa as its more than 50 countries seek a more important role on the global stage.
U.S. President Joe Biden called last year for the AU’s permanent membership in the G20, saying it’s been “a long time in coming.” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the bloc was invited to join during the G20 summit his country is hosting this week.
The African Union has advocated for full membership for seven years, spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said. Until now, South Africa was the bloc’s only G20 member.
Permanent G20 membership signals the rise of a continent whose young population of 1.3 billion is set to double by 2050 and make up a quarter of the planet’s people.
The AU’s 55 member states, which include the disputed Western Sahara, have pressed for meaningful roles in the global bodies that long represented a now faded post-World War II order, including the United Nations Security Council. They also want reforms to a global financial system – including the World Bank and other entities – that forces African countries to pay more than others to borrow money, deepening their debt.
Africa is increasingly courting investment and political interest from a new generation of global powers beyond the U.S. and the continent’s former European colonizers. China is Africa’s largest trading partner and one of its largest lenders.
Russia is its leading arms provider. Gulf nations have become some of the continent’s biggest investors. Turkey ’s largest overseas military base and embassy are in Somalia. Israel and Iran are increasing their outreach in search of partners.
African leaders have impatiently challenged the framing of the continent as a passive victim of war, extremism, hunger and disaster that’s pressured to take one side or another among global powers. Some would prefer to be brokers, as shown by African peace efforts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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