OPINION KEVIN TUTANI: G20 membership will not translate into instant benefits for Africa

On September 9, the AU was made a permanent member of the Group of 20 (G20). SA is an original member of the group, though its influence has not been effective in achieving the country’s and the continent’s objectives. Africa’s membership will enable SA to bundle its objectives with the rest of the continent. In this way, the urgency of African challenges will be appreciated and addressed.


The G20 is a bloc of 19 wealthy and politically influential countries, which holds annual meetings with the aim of directing the global economic landscape and other international priorities. The EU makes up the 20th member. The introduction of the AU, now makes it a group of 21 (19 countries, plus the EU and the AU), giving rise to the possibility of a name change to G21. Formed in 1999, the group has evolved from a strict focus on finance and economics, to include matters on climate change, politics and human rights.

In order for the continent to benefit from the group, it needs to have both the capacity and the ability to negotiate at such an international level. Typically, this requires competent personnel with in-depth knowledge of agenda items and the relevant ideological awareness of how Africa’s expectations can fit into the G20 agenda. An understanding of the continent’s haggling abilities at other multilateral institutions (UN, World Trade Organisation, IMF, World Bank) shows that Africa still has vulnerabilities and skills gaps in this area. Thus, an audit of the AU’s staff complement is vital to improve the G20’s membership value.


Some experts have stated that the timing of Africa’s membership indicates that several advanced economies in the G20 are aiming to  render ineffective the Brics economic bloc. After 15 years in existence, Brics has finally succeeded in organising the major “Global South” economies, thereby threatening the traditional multilateral order. Among the potential casualties of a successful Brics grouping are: use of the US dollar in international trade, the unrivalled military power of northern countries (Nato), and the replacement of the IMF and World Bank as indispensable multilateral financial institutions.




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