Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s absence from the upcoming G20 Summit in New Delhi likely has a number of Western heads of state breathing a sigh of relief, given some sensitive agendas could more easily gain consensus in their absence.
China’s new premier, Li Qiang, is taking Xi’s place, while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is representing Russia. EU officials will reportedly move to endorse the African Union’s bid to become a permanent member of Group of 20, while presenting themselves as the more stable path forward when it comes to Africa investment and engagement.
Bloomberg has reported that this will be the goal of a high-level meeting with African leaders on the summit’s sidelines. This comes at a very sensitive moment for Europe given the coup events in Niger.
More broadly, the past years have witnessed a series of junta governments come to power voicing anti-colonial sentiment, aimed particularly at France.
Russia and China have at the same time made deep inroads across the continent, offering investment, infrastructure and security agreements as a favorable alternative to “Western hegemony”. Bloomberg details based on diplomatic sources:
Among those due to take part are European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. From the African side, participants will include leaders from G-20 member South Africa as well as from Egypt, Nigeria and the Comoros, current chair of the African Union, the people said.
What’s being billed as a “mini-summit” takes place as competition intensifies for global influence amid a US-China standoff and divisions over Russia’s war on Ukraine.
If it goes through, this would result in the African Union having the same status as the EU (of “permanent membership”, rather than merely “invited international organization”).
Bloomberg further says that G20 summit host PM Narendra Modi is behind the plan:
Among the goals of their meeting in India on Sept. 9, European leaders want to endorse the African Union’s bid to become a permanent G-20 member, according to the people. Giorgia Meloni of Italy was among those leading on the AU’s G-20 membership at the last G-7 in Japan, while it is also a priority of this week’s summit host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Map of African countries that have signed military agreements with Russia pic.twitter.com/CKlAC9zePv
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But lest this be seen simplistically an ‘east vs. west’ issue, Russia in June said it backs the AU becoming a permanent part of the G20. Lavrov specifically said it has the “active backing” of Moscow.
Of course, this entails contrasting visions for the path of African states, given also President Putin has recently said Russia and Africa are going to “combat neo-colonialism, the practice of applying illegitimate sanctions, and attempts to undermine traditional moral values,” according to Russian media. But at least for this year’s G20, the West will have the upper-hand of engagement given their heads of state, including President Joe Biden, will be there, but not Xi or Putin… a first in a long time.
Wed, 09/06/2023 – 22:45