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Africa in G7 Summit: Window of Opportunity

by Neeta Baporikar - 26 December, 2019, 12:00 972 Views 0 Comment

Introduction

President Ramaphosa of South Africa was invited by French President Macron to participate in the 2019 G7 Summit, which was dedicated to addressing inequalities in its various forms in a global society. The summit was structured into three tracks: G7 and Africa Partnership (South Africa, Rwanda, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the Chair of the African Union Commission), G7 and four Biarritz Partners (South Africa, India, Australia and Chile), and the G7 and all partners. During the Summit, President Ramaphosa addressed various summit fora. The participation in the 2019 G7 summit was guided by four strategic foreign policy pillars: advancing national interest to attain domestic objectives; enhancing the African agenda and promoting Africa’s sustainable development support; influencing a reformed global multilateral architecture, and advancing the agenda of the South by strengthening South-South cooperation and North-South dialogue.

Genesis of G7

The G7 Summit is a forum of the seven countries with the world’s most industrialized and developed economies. They include France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada. Leaders of G7 countries meet annually to discuss important global economic, political, social and security issues. The G7 Summits usually produce a range of declarations that will form the basis of action plans to address challenges and embrace opportunities identified during the deliberations.

2019 G7 Summit

The 2019 G7 Summit convened in Biarritz, France, from 24-26 August 2019, under an overarching theme, ‘Fight Against Inequalities,’ set by the French Presidency, undertook an innovative format, involving partner countries, particularly African countries, and members of civil society to explore concrete solutions to combat inequality in all its forms. French President Macron invited: four partner countries, which promote democracy and have significant regional influence (Australia, Chile, India and South Africa); five African partners (Burkina Faso, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa, and the African Union Commission (AUC) Chair Moussa Faki); and civil society representatives. Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, comprising the Group of 7 (G7), at this Summit discussed, among other things: fighting inequality; development in Africa; gender issues; trade; climate change, biodiversity and oceans; and the digital transformation. The French Presidency also set five related priorities for the Summit:

  • Fighting inequality of opportunity, promoting gender equality and access to education and high-quality health services.
  • Reducing environmental inequality by protecting the planet through climate finance and a just ecological transition, based on preserving biodiversity and the oceans.
  • Working toward peace, and against security threats and terrorism.
  • Exploiting opportunities created by digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in an ethical and human-oriented way.
  • Combating inequality through a renewed partnership with Africa.

South Africa’s Expectations and Agenda in G7 Summit

South Africa’s President intended to promote the interests of the African Union and South Africa as a major investment destination and also embark on a working visit to Japan for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development Summit to strengthen the partnership between Japan and African countries. This working visit provided a platform to invite global partners to experience South Africa as an investment destination and trade partnership. As it is South Africa and Japan enjoy good bilateral ties with more than 140 Japanese companies having investments in South Africa worth billions of dollars and this partnership is an enabler for infrastructure development and industrialization throughout the continent. Important expectations include:

  • World’s advanced economies to partner with South Africa and the continent of Africa to explore economic opportunities.
  • Support for the African Union’s realization of its developmental Agenda 2063.
  • Commitment to the mitigation of climate change, as well as to a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy that will protect jobs and livelihoods and give communities equitable, affordable access to emerging alternatives in energy.
  • Potential opportunities arising for the continent of Africa and global partners from the inception of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, likely to be the world’s largest single free trade area with a market of 1.2 billion people.
  • Support from African counterparts and G7 leaders to support interventions to silence the guns of conflict in Africa.
  • Deeper engagement with Africa to ensure that digitization reduces inequality and supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and inclusive economic growth.
  • Promote equal opportunities and empowerment of women by expanding economic opportunities, enabling meaningful participation in the economy, eliminating financing barriers that discriminate, increase women entrepreneurship, particularly through small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) which positively contribute to inclusive growth and in turn address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. This being central in poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth in general and more specific to Africa.

G7 Outcome: Window of Opportunity for South Africa

Commitment by global leaders to harness the potential of oceans development and the very strong message from the G7 Outreach Summit to place youth and women in particular at the centre of efforts to make inequality history. The G7 outcome provides a window of opportunities for South Africa in terms of:

  • Developing and implementing innovative strategies to leapfrog the global effort to address issues facing the world’s oceans, including stressors such as plastic pollution, building the resilience of coasts and communities, improving the protection of the world’s oceans and ensuring sustainable use of marine resources. Also an opportunity to reflect on its own milestones, successes and challenges in relation to the management of oceans as a resource to drive economic growth.
  • In line with the drive to attract investment to grow the economy and create jobs, as well as reduce poverty and inequality, the opportunity prevailed for better engagement with representatives of the business community and there was an immense interest shown by the global business community in South Africa as an investment destination.
  • Release of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) to layout the continent’s economic potential with G7 countries who are set to partner with the African continent and this Free Trade Agreement will unleash Africa’s economic potential and consolidate its position as a new frontier of economic growth and development.
  • Possibility of South-North co-operation, for mutually beneficial partnership and this partnership, is likely to help Africa realize its potential, through investment and access to markets, capital, technology, and skills.
  • Renewed focus on promoting the digital economy which is equally important and the cooperation from other countries to work together to ensure digitization reduces inequality and supports inclusive economic growth. It will boost the current development of a comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa by African union, provide common, coordinated response to realize the digitization of the continent, and further lay the basis for the development of infrastructure and the institutions needed to maximize the opportunities presented by the fourth industrial revolution.
  • Mobilization of multilateral development banks (MDBs) towards low-carbon and resilient development pathways.

Conclusion

With South Africa due to become chair of the African Union next year and potential opportunities arising for the continent of Africa with global partners due to  Africa Continental Free Trade,  there is no doubt that the leaders of the G7 will need to reorient their relationship with Africa not only to tackle the challenges but also to unleash the potential and ensure that the continent in general and South Africa, in particular, gets in rightful place in the international map of global economics and trade.

References:

Biarritz Chair’s Summary on Fighting Inequalities, Biarritz Chair’s Summary on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans, Biarritz Declaration for a G7 and Africa Partnership, Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and G7 Leaders’ Declaration. Accessed from http://www.elysee.fr

Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative. Accessed from http://www.oecd.org

Carbon Neutrality Coalition. Accessed from http://www.carbon-neutrality.global

Digital Transformation in Africa, Metz Charter on Biodiversity, Promoting Women’s Entrepreneurship in Africa and Strategy for an Open, Free and Secure Digital Transformation. Accessed from http://www.consilium.europa.eu

Neeta Baporikar
Neeta Baporikar
Author is Research Focused Professor, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia.
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