AU summit: G20, BRICS as Africa’s route to greater global influence
The summit of the African Union (AU) in February 2023 has shown that the bloc is in the process of accession to the G20 grouping as a member while also becoming a participant of the BRICS+ meetings, which would in turn enhance Africa’s global influence.
While Africa lacks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a situation that is unlikely to change any time soon, experts see membership of informal multilateral clubs like the G20 and BRICS as offering Africa a useful alternative voice on global decisions. To that end, the latest AU summit marked the rising stature of Africa on the world stage and the increasing support for African economic integration both regionally and globally. Being part of both the G20 grouping and the BRICS+ meetings is important for AU insofar as they are increasingly targeting regional groupings from the Global South.
In November 2022, at the G20 summit in Bali, Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, currently the only African member of G20, called on his peers to give the AU a permanent seat in the club. And also Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who attended the summit ex-officio as current AU chairperson, repeated his previous calls for the AU to be admitted. Their call for AU membership had since been backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, among other world leaders. Sall said the G20 agreed to discuss the matter at its summit next year. Beyond G20, there is also the possibility for the AU to occasionally become a participant in the annual summits of BRICS.
Liesl Louw-Vaudran, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, believes it’s “an important achievement for the AU to have won the support of its members to represent them in a forum like the G20.” Notably, the proposal is also gaining favor among other G20 members. The grouping serves in part as a more workable proxy for the UN Security Council where Africa and others are seeking permanent representation. Africa has been indirectly represented on the G20 through South Africa’s membership since the start, but Ramaphosa no doubt thinks that Africa rightfully needed a louder voice at the table than just South Africa’s.