The African Union officially took its seat at the table of the world’s richest and most powerful countries, commonly known as G20, on Saturday with the approval of all and at the request of the summit’s host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The expansion of the block is a notable diplomatic victory for Modi, who faces national elections next year and has used hosting rights for this year’s forum to burnish his image as an international statesman.
This invite comes at a time when India, a BRICS member, has been very vocal about its core engagement of multi-alignment, maintaining strategic autonomy and not being boxed in any camp or alliance, while building a multipolar world.
Comprised of 19 nations and the EU, Africa had only been marginally represented within the G20 through South Africa’s seat and AU permanent guest ship.
This admission is the first change since the conception of the group in 1999.
Before his opening speech, Modi greeted African Union chair and Comoros President Azali Assoumani with a warm hug.
“India put a proposal to give permanent membership of G20 to the African Union. I believe that with we have everyone’s agreement on this,” Modi said in his opening address to the summit.
“With everyone’s approval, I request the African Union head to take his seat as a permanent G20 member,” he added, banging a ceremonial gavel.
Assoumani then took his seat among world leaders at the invitation of India’s foreign affairs minister S. Jaishankar.
Officially launched in 2002, the AU is a grouping of 55 African nations representing about 1.4 billion people and around 10% of the world’s economy.