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The best thing that happened to the G20: adding the African Union


  • The African Union joining the G20 as a permanent member (G21) marks a significant shift in global power dynamics towards greater inclusivity
  • The G21 focuses on practical solutions for developing nations, emphasizing economic development and operational efficiency, in contrast to the G7’s historical reliance on military and financial leverage

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

Nearly 48 years ago, the world’s wealthiest economies formed an elite organization called G7 to coordinate responses to global events.

Meeting in Puerto Rico in 1976, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States discussed inflation as it raged worldwide following the Arab oil crisis. Among the topics debated were economic challenges, as countries had earlier abandoned the Bretton Woods system linking currencies to gold, allowing them to be free-floating, fiat currencies. In recognition of the wealth of the European Economic Union, the EU became a permanent invitee to annual G7 meetings beginning in 1981.

It is remarkable that every year since 1976, this cabal of mostly historical colonial powers has made decisions that the rest of the world has dutifully followed. While the communiqués often considered global outcomes, the thrust was primarily looking inward: how to maintain the dominance of the G7 in world affairs.

In the mid-late 1990s, as the world celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the first Gulf War, many of the world’s economies prospered. So high was the camaraderie that in 1997, Russia was invited to the elite Group, creating the Group of 8 (G8). The Cold War was truly over. In 1999, in recognition of the rise of developing nations and their impact on world events, the G8 invited twelve other countries to form the G20. It is a period to which today’s world would gladly return, as suddenly, it seemed everyone had a voice at the table, a far cry from 1976. But to remind everyone about their importance and to protect their egos, the G8 continued to exist, not disbanding after the G20 was formed.

Since 1999, the world has become a three-tiered system of elites: the G8, the G20, and everyone else. [In 2014, the G7 members suspended Russia’s membership in the Group after Russia’s annexation of Crimea; note how Ukraine has continued to play an outsized role in world affairs]. As usual, Africa, with its 53 countries, was grouped in the ‘everyone else’ category.

At the meeting in New Delhi this week under the leadership of the current G20 president, India, something historic happened. The African Union was added as a permanent member of the G20, making it the G21. For a brief period, camaraderie returned as the world joined hands in celebrating its people rather than creating divisions.

The power shift was evident and is primarily a result of President Biden’s failing Neocon team that prefers using military might, often hypocritically, instead of engaging in peace talks to further the international world order. Under Biden, Europe is better integrated because of promises of military support. Sweden and Finland have joined NATO, a security alliance. G7 critics in the G20 have often remarked that the world order serves to meet the needs of the G7, not the rest of the world.

Many countries in the G20 do not agree that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, so while the elite G7 wanted to continue to condemn Russian aggression in New Delhi, the proposal went nowhere. As the New York Times reported live events, the third paragraph of last year’s joint statement said that the G20 “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine.” This year’s statement did not contain that line – or any other line calling for a Russian withdrawal, a remarkable rebuke of G7 priorities.

Africa is slowly gaining international recognition. In 2010, South Africa teamed up with Brazil, Russia, India, and China to become the founding member of BRICS. The BRICS nations represent 42% of the global population and boast a combined nominal GDP of USD 28 trillion. The 28-member EU has a GDP of about $17 trillion.

BRICS has met 15 times, most recently in Johannesburg three weeks ago, under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s leader, who invited the leaders of 67 countries to the summit. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates had all eagerly expressed plans to join the bloc and will do so on January 1, 2024. The expanded BRICS will become even more formidable because of the numerous multilateral agreements among its member nations.

The G7 has not been afraid to wield its enormous muscle through military power and financial sanctions to bring countries in line with its thinking. But the G21, by contrast, has concentrated on practical solutions to problems afflicting developing nations’ rising populations rather than focusing on higher-order issues such as democracy and human rights for fear of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. For example, India has deployed easy-to-use digital platforms for financial transactions, biometric identity, and the collection of Value Added Taxes. Each solution can potentially root out retail corruption and increase operational efficiencies – a pitch appealing to other G21 nations.

The African Union brings active representation to the G21, unlike simply being a voting member in other world bodies, such as the UN or the IMF. Its leadership and context will be valued for the first time – and it is the best thing that happened to the G20.

Rajkamal Rao is a columnist and a member of the tippinsights editorial board. He is an American entrepreneur and writes the WorldView column for the Hindu BusinessLine, India’s second-largest financial newspaper, on the economy, politics, immigration, foreign affairs, and sports.

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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

1. Ukraine Says Black Sea Gas, Oil Platforms Recaptured From Russian Control – Al Jazeera

The recapture of the so-called Boyko Towers platforms takes back an asset Russia seized during Crimea’s annexation in 2015. According to Ukrainian military intelligence, it places Kyiv closer to retaking the occupied peninsula.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union
Ukrainian military personnel standing on an oil and gas drilling platform in the Black Sea. Image released on September 11, 2023 [Handout/Telegram/@DIUkraine/AFP]

Before Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine extracted a significant part of its natural gas from the Black Sea shelf, providing gas not only for Crimea but also to mainland regions of Ukraine.

2. Ukraine’s Counter-Offensive Is Stalling. The West Must Prepare For Humiliation – The Telegraph

After 18 months of war, it is no longer a question of if the Western alliance will falter, but when. France and Germany, in particular, have been reluctant partners.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

As the provider of the lion’s share of backing for Ukraine, the U.S. is calling the shots in this war. Yet, President Biden has been giving just about enough military assistance to keep Ukraine fighting, but intentionally not enough to enable a victory.

3. UK Says Russia Attacked Civilian Cargo Ship In Black Sea Port – WION

The United Kingdom accused the Russian military of targeting a civilian cargo ship in the Black Sea with “multiple missiles.” The attack reportedly happened on August 24th.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

Britain said Ukrainian forces successfully intercepted the missiles.

“Putin is trying to win a war he will not win, and these attacks show just how desperate he is,” said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

4. Lula Backtracks On Putin’s Safety At Rio G20 – AFP

As an ICC member, Brazil raised eyebrows when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told: “If I’m the president of Brazil and if he comes to Brazil, there’s no way that he will be arrested.”

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

He changed tack on Monday, telling reporters: “I don’t know if Brazil’s justice will detain him. It’s the judiciary that decides, not the government.”

5. Biden Speaks To China’s Li At G20, Says Economic ‘Crisis’ Makes Taiwan Invasion Less Likely – Reuters

President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s No.2, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, at the annual G20 summit in New Delhi. He said Beijing’s economic wobbles would not lead it to invade Taiwan.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

The talks were the highest-level meeting between the two powers in nearly ten months since Biden and Xi spoke at last year’s G20 in Indonesia.

“We talked about stability” and the Southern Hemisphere. “It wasn’t confrontational at all,” he added.

6. China’s Massive Gold-Buying Spree Continues –

The People’s Bank of China ranked as the largest buyer in July, adding 23 tons of gold to its holdings. It was the ninth consecutive month of buying for the Chinese central bank.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

China has increased its official reserves by 188 tons. The People’s Bank of China now officially holds 2,136 tons of gold, making up 4% of its total reserves. China has a history of adding to reserves and then going silent.

7. Nearly 40 Chinese Jets, Carrier Seen Near Taiwan – AFP

Taiwan said it detected 39 Chinese warplanes and an aircraft carrier near the East Asian island after a U.S. destroyer and a Canadian frigate transited through the Taiwan Strait over the weekend.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

Between Sunday and Monday morning, 26 aircraft and 13 warships were operating around the self-ruling democratic island. At the same time, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said another 13 planes were detected since the early hours of Monday.

8. European Economy To Grow More Slowly Than Expected In 2023 And 2024 – UPI

The European Union revised its growth forecast for 2023 to 0.8% from the 1% it projected in May, blaming weak consumption resulting from high and still increasing consumer prices for most goods and services.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

The weaker growth momentum through 2024 comes despite falling energy prices and an exceptionally strong labor market that has delivered record-low unemployment and continued jobs and wage growth, the European Commission said.

9. Biden Administration Clears Path To Transfer $6bn In Iranian Assets – Al Jazeera

The Biden administration has cleared the way for the release of five American citizens detained in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $6bn in frozen Iranian money.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

In addition, as part of the deal, the administration has agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the U.S..

10. Israeli Defense Chief Says Iran Setting Up Airport In Lebanon For Attacks On Israel – Reuters

In an international security conference, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant showed aerial images of what he described as an airport built by Iran to pursue what he called “terrorist objectives” against Israel.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

The location he gave was near the Lebanese village of Birket Jabbour and the city of Jezzin, some 12 miles north of the Israeli border town of Metulla.

11. Judicial Reforms: Israelis Take To Streets Ahead Of Historic Supreme Court Session – WION

On the eve of a historic Supreme Court hearing concerning the judicial overhaul mooted by PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, thousands of protesters rallied across the capital city of Jerusalem.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union
An aerial view shows people holding a banner in Hebrew reading “Supreme Court” as they take part in a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition government’s judicial overhaul Photograph:(Reuters)

In July, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed a key clause of the judicial reform bill that neutered the top court. The “reasonableness bill” seeks to strip the top court of the power to declare government decisions unreasonable.

12. North Korea’s Kim Arrives In Russia For Rare Summit With Putin – Yonhap

Hours after North Korea’s official News Agency reported that Kim had left Pyongyang for Russia aboard his train, South Korea’s defense ministry assessed that Kim’s train had crossed into Russia.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

“Considering that a large number of military personnel is accompanying him, (we) are closely monitoring whether negotiations over arms trade between North Korea and Russia and technology transfers will take place,” Jeon Ha-kyou, spokesperson at South Korea’s defense ministry, said.

13. Morocco Earthquake: UN Disaster Agency Not Involved In Search And Rescue Efforts – Middle East Eye

The deployment of international search and rescue teams in Morocco following Friday’s earthquake is not being coordinated through the United Nations’ disaster response system.

The Best Thing That Happened To The G20: Adding The African Union

Morocco has so far accepted offers of help from several countries, including Qatar, the UAE, Spain, and the UK. But Morocco’s interior ministry appears to have been slow to accept offers of help from other countries, including France.

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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights

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