Biden wants African Union to be added to Group of 20 nations

The African Union represents the continent’s 54 countries.

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President Joe Biden plans to announce at next week’s U.S.-Africa summit that his administration supports adding the African Union as a permanent member of the Group of 20 nations, according to the White House.

The African Union represents the continent’s 54 countries. The G-20 is composed of the world’s major industrial and emerging economies and represents more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product. South Africa is currently the only African member of the G-20.

U.S. President Joe Biden, Democratic Republic of Congo’s President and African Union Chair Felix Tshisekedi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from row from left, pose with other world leaders for a group photo at the La Nuvola conference center for the G20 summit on October 30, 2021 in Rome, Italy. The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries plus the European Union. It was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises. Italy currently holds the Presidency of the G20 and this year’s summit will focus on three broad, interconnected pillars of action: People, Planet, Prosperity. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth – Pool/Getty Images)

“It’s past time Africa has permanent seats at the table in international organizations and initiatives,” the senior director for African affairs on the National Security Council, Judd Devermont, said in a statement Friday. “We need more African voices in international conversations that concern the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health, and security.”

Biden has invited 49 African leaders to take part in the three-day Washington summit that starts Tuesday.

The G-20 representation would allow African countries to more effectively press the group to implement its pledge to help the continent to cope with climate change. The high-profile push for inclusion in the G-20 comes at a time when the AU has shown renewed unity and purpose on some high-profile issues, banding together to combat COVID-19 and establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, which came into force in early 2021.

African Union officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the White House announcement.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, at last month’s G-20 gathering in Indonesia, underscored the importance of African Union membership in achieving climate goals.

“We call for continued G-20 support for the African Renewable Energy Initiative as a means of bringing clean power to the continent on African terms,” Ramaphosa told the gathering. “This can be best achieved with the African Union joining the G-20 as a permanent member.”

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT – NOVEMBER 07: Macky Sall (L), Chairperson of the African Union, chats with Paul Kegame, President of Rwanda, at the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Implementation Summit (SCIS) of the UNFCCC COP27 climate conference on November 07, 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The conference is bringing together political leaders and representatives from 190 countries to discuss climate-related topics including climate change adaptation, climate finance, decarbonisation, agriculture and biodiversity. The conference is running from November 6-18. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Devermont said the announcement builds on the administration’s strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa and its advocacy for adding permanent members from Africa to the U.N. Security Council.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current AU chairperson, has made the case that by adding the African Union the G-20 “would come to represent the views of 54 additional members, the bulk of low-income countries, and about 80% of the world’s population.”

“The G-20 compromises its effectiveness and influence by omitting such a large fraction of humanity and the world economy,” Sall wrote in Devex, a news organization covering global development, in July.

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