African voices drowned out at the G20


The mood post the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina is not one of cheerfulness but rather of tension, discomfort and awkwardness. The G20 Summit was set against a backdrop of tumultuous world events preceding it. With the tectonic shifts in global power in the past few weeks dominating the G20 Summit, it’s alarming that the meetings’ communique has far reaching substance that aims to combat injustice, and maintains a commitment to sustainability and inclusive growth.

The affluent world leaders congregated in Buenos Aires and discussed how they would use their influence and power to push an altruistic agenda for the greater good of the planet. The glaring irony in this idea, was that none of the people that were meant to be lifted from the margins of obscurity, were not invited to the meeting. The developing nations most negatively affected by the fluctuations of the global economy were still not privy to plotting their own course in global multilateralism.

That privilege was left to the larger economies which are the ones responsible for the current inequality. The inconspicuous aspect of this annual assembly is the emphasis on global financial safety provided by a transformed, “Well, hopefully someday…” IMF. It is the very same IMF that keeps poor countries in debt and then implements structural adjustment programmes (SAP) that keep them dependent on the Financial Development Institutions FDIs.

The European Union even has a permanent chair to indicate whose interests are being earmarked and focussed on in the affairs of the G20. The juxtaposition between the grandiose optic commitments made in Argentina and the quiet contemplative mood at the Global Citizen, was palpable. The one was intimately aware of their stature and wealth, and their unwavering sense of self, and the other was fervent and selfless. The pledges were generous and graceful, but more than that they were based on genuine African and global developmental needs informed by those who need it the most.

While the hot topic of the Summit over the weekend was about Trump and Putin, and Trump and Xi, there were plenty of curtain raisers and sideshows to keep even the most inattentive spectators entertained. Between British Prime Minister Theresa May and her brand new exit deal from the EU and how that’s going to change multilateral relations going forward, and the pariah Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The issues on the table did not have much to do with equality, but the continuation of neo-imperialist ideals that saw most of the world’s natural resources end up in the hands of Europeans and Americans. Now under the guise of aid and development funds, policies to disenfranchise Africans, Asians and South Americans are still pervasive in summits like the G20. Global Citizen on the other hand raised funds to be implemented, to effect lasting and genuine change into the lives of the marginalised.

What is currently happening in global multilateral fora such as  the G20 speaks to the long held view within the Global South that the post WWII world order is undemocratic and does not fairly represent the majority of the global population. We therefore expected to witness more global institutions unable to answer today’s provocative questions of how to bring those on the margins to the centre of global development.

Africa has no time to despair or disengage due to the current global negative outlook of the G20. It must continue advancing its Agenda 2063 with the help of those friendly nations that have been all-weather friends of the continent. Africa’s struggle to liberate its people from poverty can be achieved as long as it continues seeking multilateralism at the continental level and in the world.

Africa expected the G20 to come up with a practical plan to assist the continent in its quest to rapidly industrialise and fund massive infrastructure. The African Development Bank estimated that Africa requires US$93 billion a year to close the infrastructure gap on the continent. From an African perspective, the G20 failed to address these fundamental African matters in Buenos Aires. Africa ought to seek closer trade relations within the continent and with those willing to advance multilateralism.

As it stands, President Donald Trump has demonstrated the willingness to withdraw America from the most multilateral forum in which it once occupied a leadership role. Coupled by what appears to be the disintegration of the European Union shown by Brexit, Africa should continue strengthening its relationship with friendly countries in the global South, particularly China, Russia, India and Brazil.

Dr David Monyae is the Director of the Centre for Africa – China Studies at the University of Johannesburg. @DavidMonyae