- The African Union (AU) was admitted as a new member of the G20, barely three months after India floated the idea of including the organisation. The development took place at the ongoing 18th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit in New Delhi.
What is the AU?
- An intergovernmental organisation of the 55 member states of Africa, Launched in 2002.
- Successor of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was formed in 1963.
- The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa. Collectively the group has a gross domestic product (gdp) of $3 trillion with some 1.4 billion people.
Why was the AU formed?
- OAU aimed to bring African nations together and resolve common issues through collective action.
- Its main focus was to help liberate the colonised countries on the continent. To do so, OAU mustered diplomatic support and provided logistical aid to liberation movements across Africa.
- OAU’s efforts helped numerous African nations gain independence from their European colonists in the following years. But the organisation suffered from major shortcomings.
- It failed to fillip political and economic integration among its member countries. Therefore, it was decided to reform the OAU during the mid-1990s, which ultimately led to the formation of the AU.
Objectives of the AU?
- AU concentrates its energy and resources on achieving greater unity and solidarity between African countries and their people. It seeks to accelerate the process of the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.
- AU addresses the multifaceted social, economic and political problems that the African nations have been facing. Its key objectives also include promoting peace, stability, and security across the region. Protecting and promoting human rights are also part of the agenda.
Achievements of the AU?
- Many of the AU’s peacekeeping missions have helped governments tackle terrorism across Africa, from the Sahel to northern Mozambique.
- Over the years, the organisation’s interventions have prevented violence in countries like Burundi, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Darfur, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Mali.
- AU’s diplomatic efforts have also resulted in resolving conflicts in Africa. Last year, it brokered a peace deal between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in South Africa, almost two years after the two entities began fighting.
- The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which came into force in 2021, is yet another achievement of the organisation. With 54 members, AfCFTA is the world’s largest new free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994.
- It seeks to increase intra-African trade through deeper levels of trade liberalisation and enhanced regulatory harmonisation and coordination. The AfCFTA will increase Africa’s income by $450 billion by 2035 and increase intra-African exports by more than 81%, according to the World Bank estimates.
Shortcomings of the AU?
- One failure of the AU has been its inability to thwart coups in Africa. Since the 1960s, the continent has witnessed more than 200 coups – the most recent ones took place in Gabon and Niger.
- The obvious reason is that the continental body never sends a military intervention to suppress the putschists, to capture them and bring them to trial for treason. It limits itself to diplomatic pressures against them, such as suspending their membership.
- The organisation has also been unable to get its member countries to pay their annual dues, leaving it starved of funds. As a result, it has to depend on external funding, which impacts its autonomy.
Upshot of AU’s inclusion in G20?
- The AU now has an opportunity to use its G20 permanent seat to craft a win-win pathway for the entire world with an uncompromising demand to redesign the global trade, finance, and investment architecture.
- Group’s inclusion will give African interests and perspectives voice and visibility in the G20.