African Union becomes permanent G20 member, PM says it will strengthen ‘voice of Global South’

New Delhi: In a significant milestone under India’s G20 presidency, the African Union on Saturday became a new permanent member of the grouping of the largest economies of the world. It is the first expansion of the influential bloc since its inception in 1999.

All member countries of the G20 accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to bring the key bloc of the Global South to the high table of the world’s top economies.

“Honoured to welcome the African Union as a permanent member of the G20 Family. This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” Modi posted on X along with a video of his announcing that the African Union has become a permanent member of the G20.

In his inaugural remarks at the Summit, Modi asked the President of the Union of Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Azali Assoumani, to join other leaders at the high table, making the 55-member bloc the second multi-nation grouping after the European Union to be a permanent member of the G20.

“In keeping with the sentiment of ‘sabka saath’ (with everyone), India had proposed that the African Union should be given permanent membership of the G20. I believe we all are in agreement on this proposal…,” Modi said at the Bharat Mandapam, the venue of the Summit.

“Before moving forward with the proceedings, I would like to invite the president of the African Union to take his place as a permanent member of the G20,” he said amid thunderous applause by the gathering of world leaders.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar then escorted Assoumani to take his seat at the G20 high table. Before taking his seat, Assoumani shared a warm handshake and hug with Prime Minister Modi.

In a post on X later, the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Advancing a more inclusive G20 that echoes the aspirations of the Global South! PM @narendramodi extends a heartfelt welcome to President @_AfricanUnion and the President of Comoros Azali Assoumani.” “Thrilled to have the African Union as a permanent member. A milestone for the G20 family indeed,” it said.

In an interview with PTI ahead of the G20 Summit, Modi had said India backs inclusion of the African Union as a full member of the Group of 20 largest economies as no plan for the future of the planet can be successful without the representation and recognition of all voices.

Africa is “top priority” for India and it works for the inclusion of those in global affairs who feel their voices are not being heard, Modi had said.

In the last few years, India has been positioning itself as a leading voice, flagging concerns, challenges and aspirations of the Global South, or developing nations, especially the African continent.

“I would like to draw your attention to the theme of our G20 presidency — ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — One Earth, One Family, One Future’. It is not just a slogan but a comprehensive philosophy that is derived from our cultural ethos,” Modi had said during the wide-ranging interview.

The prime minister was leading from the front on the issue of the African Union’s membership of the G20. In June, Modi wrote to G20 leaders to pitch for according the African Union full membership of the grouping at its New Delhi summit.

Weeks later, the proposal was formally included in the draft communique for the summit during the third G20 Sherpas meeting in Hampi, Karnataka, in July.

As G20 president, India has been focusing on issues like inclusive growth, digital innovation, climate resilience, and equitable global health access with an aim to benefit the Global South or the developing countries.

In January, India hosted the Voice of the Global South Summit with an aim to highlight the problems and challenges facing the developing countries.

The Addis Ababa-headquartered African Union (AU) comprises 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, Africa’s first post independence continental institution set up in 1963 with 32 members.

Collectively, African Union member states have a GDP of nearly USD 3 trillion and a population of around 1.4 billion.

US President Joe Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are among those attending the two-day G20 Summit here.

The chiefs of many leading global bodies such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Health Organisation are also participating in the conference.

After assuming presidency of the bloc on December 1, India held around 200 meetings related to the G20 across the country on a range of its priority areas.

The G20 member countries represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

Besides the African Union, the G20 grouping comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union (EU).

The G20 was founded in 1999 after a financial crisis as a forum for the finance ministers and Central bank governors to discuss global economic and financial issues. It was upgraded to the level of heads of states and governments in the wake of the global economic and financial crisis of 2007. In 2009, it was designated the “premier forum for international economic cooperation”.

The G20 Summit is held annually, under the leadership of a rotating presidency.