The G20: Did it seize the historic opportunity to kickstart its partnership with Africa?

This year the G20 Summit was held under the German presidency in Hamburg on 7 – 8 July. The “G20” stands for ‘Group of 20’ – a group that represents the world’s 20 largest economies, and about two-thirds of the global population. G20 leaders meet every year to discuss and make decisions on key global issues affecting economic growth – including how to tackle extreme poverty

Africa on the G20‘s agenda: an opportunity for a “Win-Win Deal”

Acknowledging that Africa plays a crucial role in the global economy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had rightfully placed Africa as one of the prominent agenda items of the Summit by proposing a G20 “Partnership with Africa”. This was a historic event as, until now, African economic development had largely been overlooked by the G20, which only includes one African member state (South Africa). This year, Germany also invited two other African representatives to the Summit: Macky Sall, current chair of NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa’s Development), and Senegalese president, and Alpha Condé, current chairperson of the African Union and President of Guinea.

ONE strongly engaged in the Summit preparation, asking the G20 leaders to seize this historic opportunity. We called on them to prepare for the doubling of Africa’s population by 2050 by establishing a “Win-Win Deal” with Africa and investing in youth Education, Employment, and Empowerment, thereby fostering inclusive growth and benefitting the world as a whole.

What did the G20 actually deliver for Africa?

Despite the fact that this year’s Summit was overshadowed by violent demonstrations outside the Summit, and tense negotiations on climate between leaders, some positive results emerged for the advancement of Africa’s development.  While some of the G20 initiatives for Africa could have been more ambitious, positive steps have been made to set the path towards making Africa’s development, and the African youth, a priority for the G20 in the future.

The G20 “Compacts with Africa”

As part of its Partnership with Africa, the G20 established a “Compact” initiative with several African countries. This initiative aims to create an environment that would enable private sector investments within the continent. The first seven countries to have joined the Compact are; Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia – which will likely be followed by others.

ONE regrets the Compacts’ lack of ambition – it remains too focused on the private sector, without mentioning public investment in education, employment and empowerment for the African youth. Moreover, it concentrates on the strongest African states, while the poorest and most fragile states that need the most support to face Africa’s future challenges and opportunities are ignored. However, these compacts are a positive first step, which could hopefully establish an improved and long-term G20 process.

Transparency: Tackling illicit financial flows, corruption, and money laundering are essential if developing countries are to secure their efforts for social and economic growth. Transparency should have been put at the core of the G20’s agenda with Africa. However, the G20 leaders failed to secure stronger regulations to kerb money laundering, for instance by committing to expose those who drive those “getaway cars of the corrupt”, anonymous shell companies and trusts. The EU must now do better through their Anti Money Laundering Directive.

Health: The G20 also committed to combat the threat of rising antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and the environment by launching Global Collaboration Hub for Research and Development. This Hub will also focus on tuberculosis, the leading infectious disease killer in the world -with 95% of the cases affecting developing countries- which is becoming increasingly drug-resistant. This is a welcome step which could help to ensure that safe, effective, and affordable drugs can reach the people who need them most.

Education: For the first time ever, the G20 communique directly addressed the need for education in developing countries. It called for the establishment of an International Finance Facility and even mentioned the necessity of collaborating with existing initiatives, such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW). While this is certainly a huge win, it only laid the foundations and it will be up to the next G20 presidency in Argentina to take it forward.

Women’s empowerment: The G20 also created a Women’s Entrepreneurship Financing Initiative, which aims to alleviate the challenges women face when trying to access capital, and provide mentorship for female entrepreneurs. It received an initial funding of $325 million and could become an effective tool to support female entrepreneurs and eradicate poverty in developing countries. To fully empower women and girls, ONE believes that the funding for this initiative should be additional to existing funding for women, and for the initiative to promote the full range of women’s rights.

Rural youth employment: The G20’s Partnership with Africa also included an initiative for rural youth employment to support the next generation in rural development, agriculture and food security. The G20 reaffirmed its support to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) -a multilateral financing instrument promoting agriculture-based growth, including in Africa- and recognised the important role that rural youth employment plays in contexts of conflict and fragility and in the fight against poverty – especially for women.

Famines: The G20 reacted in its final communique to the impending famines in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia where more than 20 million people are currently at risk of starvation and need emergency food aid. The U.S.A. moreover announced $639 million in additional humanitarian assistance to address these four appalling situations.

Other positive outcomes include the G20’s support to the International Development Association (IDA 18) and its new focus on fragile states and private sector development. The G20 also adopted technical elements that need to be integrated into the cooperation with the world’s poorest economies, such as the need to contain the build-up of their sovereign debt while also working for their financial inclusion and the need to promote data sharing. Finally, the G20 committed for the first time to implement the UN “Ruggie” principles on Business and human rights, which will help protect the rights of the most vulnerable in the global economy.


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