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G20 becomes G21

Published: 14th Sep, 2023


The African Union (AU) has been granted permanent membership in the group of 20 largest economies (G20) worldwide. Now, the 55-member AU and the European Union are the only two regional bodies in the G-20.


  • Over the past few months, Prime Minister Modi has been actively advocating for the African Union’s inclusion as a member of the G20.
  • Initially, the idea was conceived after the ‘Voice of the Global South’ Summitin January 2023, in which most of the African Union’s 55 countries participated. 
  • The verbal support of at least eight countries, including the United States (US), Germany, Brazil, China and Russia, had already strengthened the African Union’s bid.

About the African Union (AU):

  • The African Union (AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent.
  • It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
  • Headquarters: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

How Africa is evolving?

  • Rise and shine: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.
  • Meaningful role: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.
  • Voice for reforms:They also want reforms to a global financial system - including the World Bank and other entities - that forces African countries to pay morethan others to borrow money, deepening their debt.
  • Investments: 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.
  • Challenging the image:African leaders have impatiently challenged the framing of the continent as a passive victim of war, extremism, hungerand 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.

Granting the African Union membership in the G20 is a step that recognizes the continent as a global power in itself.

India, China compete

  • China is the largest trading partner for the African continent overall and the fourth-biggest source of international investment.
  • Bilateral trade between China and Africa stood at about $282 billion in 2022, whereas trade between India and Africa stood at nearly $98 billion in 2022-23 according to government data from Beijing and New Delhi, respectively.
  • There is a degree of competition for influence in Africa — not only between India and China, but also other partners operating in the region such as the US, EU, Brazil, Turkey, UAE, Japan, Indonesia and so on.

What does the AU bring to the G20?

  • Representation of largest FTA:With full G20 membership, the AU can represent a continent that’s home to the world’s largest free trade area.
  • Resource rich:It’s also enormously rich in the resources the world needs to combat climate change, which Africa contributes to the least but is affected by the most.
  • Renewables and minerals: The African continent has 60% of the world’s renewable energy assetsand more than 30% of the minerals key to renewable and low-carbon technologies.
    • Congo alone has almost half of the world’s cobalt, a metal essential for lithium-ion batteries.

India-Africa Relations:

  • Social Infrastructure: The India-Africa social infrastructure (education, health, skills) cooperation is multidimensional, comprehensive, and involves national, state, and subnational actors working toward augmenting African institutional and individual capacities.
  • Common Geo-Political Interests: India and Africa have common interests on international issues, UN reforms, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, cybersecurity, and energy security.

Operation Sahayata 19

  • India provides Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) support to Mozambique.
  • Operation Vanilla
  • Indian Navy on January 28 launched 'Operation Vanilla' in support of the national disaster in flood-hit Madagascar and diverted a large amphibious ship to provide assistance.
  • Economic Cooperation: In the last decade and a half, trade between India and Africa has multiplied and diversified–bilateral trade of USD63.3 billion in 2018-19 made India the third-largest trading partner for the continent.

What is the importance of Africa for India?

  • The end of the Cold War presented new opportunities for India to interact with Africa. India's rapid economic growth needed new markets and access to resources. As a result, economic engagement with Africa has become central to India's new approach.
  • This is related to India's search for energy security, in which Africa is playing an increasingly important role.
  • India is seeking diversification of its oil supplies away from the Middle East and Africa can play an important role in India’s energy matrix.

By helping the African Union earn a seat at the G20 table, India has emerged as a champion of the Global South. The announcement that the AU will join the G20 comes as India and China are competing for greater influence.


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