The 2014 annual summit of the group of 20 developed and emerging economies comes up from Nov. 15 to Nov. 16 in the Australian city of Brisbane. As usual the leaders of the G20 countries will be deliberating on issues that will have ramifications for not only their respective economies but also the rest of the world, including those who will not be represented at the deliberations.
This year, the grouping seeks to address the global growth challenge in an ambitious and meaningful way, by focusing, among other things, on empowering development so that developing countries can attract infrastructure investment, strengthen their tax base and improve their people’s access to financial services. But how much Africa will benefit is another matter.
Firstly, the continent is under-represented in the body. South Africa is the continent’s sole member, meaning that Africa’s views are not adequately canvassed. Also, since the Chairpersons of the African Union and the Nepad Planning and Coordinating Agency who are usually invited as observers to G20 meetings change every year, it makes continuity and effective representation difficult. To further buttress the point about Africa’s under-representation, the Association of African Central Banks, unlike its peers in other regions, is not a member of the Financial Stability Board, another body comprising the Finance Ministers and central bankers of member countries, which meets regularly to take crucial decisions affecting the global economy.
So Africa’s participation at the meetings often suffers due to uncertainty and inconsistency of its inputs. It is no surprise then that the continent’s priorities are not fully incorporated into the G20 agenda. Yet, Africa can no longer remain on the margins where global leaders are making decisions on the world economy. The continent has a duty to convince the grouping to address its major concerns, particularly the strengthening of productive capacity, increasing productivity, value addition and accelerated industrialization.
It would be fair to acknowledge the launching of an outreach program by the G20 aimed at redressing Africa’s lack of meaningful representation at its meetings. But if the grouping wants to truly add value to the continent’s developmental aspirations, it could start by supporting its efforts at promoting economic transformation through industrialization, economic growth and employment creation. Also, it needs to pay attention to infrastructural development on the continent and help boost intra-African trade, which still remains at a low level. In a nutshell, the continent will do well to collaborate with the global body in making its growth more resilient to external shocks and to create more jobs to develop sectors that have large multiplier effects such as manufacturing and agriculture.
However, until African membership of the forum is increased with more countries joining South Africa, it may not have the desired impact. For example, it must be strongly canvassed that Nigeria too merits a place by virtue of its current status as the largest economy in Africa. Not only is the country the 26th largest economy in the world valued at more than $510 billion, it is also the most populous nation in Africa with more than 170 million people. Clearly, this makes it too big a market to be ignored. To further strengthen its case, Africa must also deploy high-quality resources to manage the Africa–G20 relationship, and have a clear picture of needs as part of the overall policy and planning framework which is an essential basis for meaningful dialogue among equals. Governments — jointly and individually — need to rectify the capacity deficits that hinder the continent’s relationship with its partners.
On its part, the G20 needs to see Africa’s development as part of the solution to the global economic challenges, and not as something to be treated separately. It has to bear it in mind that Africa’s economy stands to benefit from an improved global economy. It has to pay attention to the development priorities of the continent, including infrastructure development as the key to attaining structural transformation. The G20 can increase investment in infrastructure by making cheap funding available.
For the African Capacity Building Foundation, with a mandate to develop human and institutional capacities on the continent, it will continue to support the continent in developing the requisite expertise to engage with the G20. The Foundation will help the continent to better understand the issues relating to doing the necessary analytical and policy research on major concerns and build up the coordination capacities among the continent’s regional and sub-regional organizations. Most importantly, the Foundation will strive to enhance the negotiating capacity of African countries in order to be effective in the G20 processes, in building Africa’s analytical capacity to monitor financial and trade flows, and the capacity to monitor the implementation and impact of G20 programs and projects.
–Prof. Nnadozie is the Executive Secretary of African Capacity Building Foundation based in Harare.