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The absence of Putin and Xi Jinping from the G20 was an opportunity for the EU to build engagement with Africa

The European Union is going to benefit from the absence of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin from this week’s Group of 20. Its aim is to intensify its outreach to nations of the so-called Global South, through a high-level meeting with African leaders on the summit’s sidelines, according to Bloomberg.

According to anonymous sources involved in the preparation of the meeting, the EU plans to use the opportunity. The 27-nation bloc plans to prove that it is serious about revisiting its partnership with Africa, despite the heavy legacy of colonialism.

Among those due to take part are German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. On the African side, leaders from G-20 member South Africa as well as from Egypt, Nigeria, and the Comoros, the current chair of the African Union will take part.

What’s being called a “mini-summit” appears as competition intensifies for global influence amid a US-China standoff and divisions over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

While China and Russia have both made inroads with African nations, including by appealing to anti-colonial sentiment, Putin’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal has hit developing nations the hardest, potentially leaving an opening for Europe to sway opinion among countries that have refused to condemn Russia’s war.

Among the aims of their meeting in India on Sept. 9, European leaders are going to support the African Union’s bid to become a permanent G-20 member, according to the people. Giorgia Meloni from 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.

In May, during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia, Scholz threw his weight behind calls for the bloc to become a permanent G-20 member to give it more say in efforts to tackle global issues like climate change. The chancellor argued that Africa must play a greater international role to reflect its growing importance in an increasingly fractured and multipolar world order.

Permanent membership, rather than that of an “invited international organisation,” would give the African Union the same status as the EU. It’s part of a drive to provide African countries with a stronger voice when international organisations decide on measures that affect them, including efforts to address global warming, in which overwhelmingly caused by emissions from G-20 nations.

Scholz also wants to use the meeting to organise an international conference that is set for Berlin on Nov. 20 at which European and African leaders want to push ahead with the “Compact With Africa,” an initiative that aims to improve conditions for sustainable private-sector investment in African countries, including in infrastructure.

The German chancellor considers the mini-summit as an another opportunity to convince African leaders that Europeans are serious about opening a new chapter in their cooperation, and to meet at eye level when discussing common challenges like migration, economic development, climate change, and security.

The aim is “to ensure that we shape the world of the future together on an equal footing” with emerging nations, Scholz told Deutschlandfunk radio last week, describing it as an “obligation” for western Europe and North America among others. He said:

“Given the colonial history and past in many of these countries, we have a responsibility to make today’s positive development possible”.

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