President Joe Biden is set to announce that the U.S. supports the African Union, which is comprised of 55 countries, to become a permanent member of the Group of 20 nations, reports the Washington Post. Biden will make the announcement at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington this week.
White House officials noted the three-day gathering will include executive meetings, business deals, global initiatives and a gala dinner at the White House.
Since G-20's inception in 1999, South Africa has been the only African nation represented. This strategic move by Biden would be a major step forward for African countries and could be the pathway for Biden to gain support on global issues such as the conflict in Ukraine and climate change.
Judd Devermont, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for African Affairs, spoke about the urgency of African nations being a part of the international forum.
“It’s past time Africa has permanent seats at the table in international organizations and initiatives,” Devermont said in a statement. “We need more African voices in international conversations that concern the global economy, democracy and governance, climate change, health and security.”
Macky Sall, president of Senegal and chair of the African Union, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have been adamant about their participation in G-20 in personal meetings and correspondence with Biden
“The president is following through on his commitments and is listening to our African partners,” said Devermont.
“When we talk, we’re often not listened to, or in any case, not with enough interest,” Sall said in an interview in Dakar last Thursday. “This is what we want to change. And let no one tell us no, don’t work with so-and-so, just work with us. We want to work and trade with everyone.”
For years, African nations have been frustrated by being left out of the global conversations that directly impacted their citizenry. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were last to receive treatments and vaccines, “often receiving them just before they expire and without sufficient storage and distribution capacity.”
Additionally, Africa has experienced the most dramatic effects of climate change including constant droughts, rising temperatures and other extremely devastating weather events.
This U.S.-Africa summit will be the first one held in eight years when President Barack Obama last hosted the summit in 2014.
Mvemba Dizolele, director and senior fellow at the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that it’s time for the U.S. to follow the example of other countries such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and China, who all have thriving trade relationships with the continent.
“The United States cannot be absent in this space,” Dizolele said. “The next summit should not take place in eight years. It should take place next year, it should take place in Africa, and the president should go to Africa.”