The African Union on Saturday joined the G20 after all member countries accepted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposal to bring the key bloc of the Global South to the high table of the world's top economies, a major diplomatic achievement of India's presidency.
In his inaugural remarks at the G20 summit, Modi asked the President of the Union of Comoros and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Azali Assoumani, to join other leaders at the high table, making the 55-member bloc the second multi-nation grouping after the European Union to be a permanent member of the G20.
"In keeping with the sentiment of 'sabka saath' (with everyone), India had proposed that the African Union should be given permanent membership of the G20. I believe we all are in agreement on this proposal...," Modi said.
"Before moving forward with the proceedings, I would like to invite the president of the African Union to take his place as a permanent member of the G20," he said amid thunderous applause by world leaders gathered at the Bharat Mandapam, the venue of the Summit.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar then escorted Assoumani to take his seat at the G20 high table. Before taking his seat, Assoumani shared a warm handshake and hug with Prime Minister Modi.
In a post on X later, the Prime Minister's Office said, "Advancing a more inclusive G20 that echoes the aspirations of the Global South! PM @narendramodi extends a heartfelt welcome to President @_AfricanUnion and the President of Comoros Azali Assoumani." "Thrilled to have the African Union as a permanent member. A milestone for the G20 family indeed," it said.
In an interview with PTI ahead of the G20 Summit, Modi had said India backs inclusion of the African Union as a full member of the Group of 20 largest economies as no plan for the future of the planet can be successful without the representation and recognition of all voices.
Africa is "top priority" for India and that it works for the inclusion of those in global affairs who feel their voices are not being heard, Modi had said.
In the last few years, India has been positioning itself as a leading voice, flagging concerns, challenges and aspirations of the Global South, or developing nations, especially the African continent.
"I would like to draw your attention to the theme of our G20 presidency -- 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam -- One Earth, One Family, One Future'. It is not just a slogan but a comprehensive philosophy that is derived from our cultural ethos," Modi had said during the wide-ranging interview.
The prime minister was leading from the front on the issue of the African Union's membership of the G20. In June, Modi wrote to G20 leaders to pitch for according the African Union full membership of the grouping at its New Delhi summit.
Weeks later, the proposal was formally included in the draft communique for the summit during the third G20 Sherpas meeting in Hampi, Karnataka, in July.
The Addis Ababa-headquartered African Union (AU) comprises the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent. It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity, Africa's first post independence continental institution set up in 1963 with 32 members.
Collectively, African Union member states have a GDP of nearly USD 3 trillion and a population of around 1.4 billion.
US President Joe Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are among those attending the two-day Summit.
Chiefs of many leading global bodies such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Health Organisation are also participating in the conference.
After assuming presidency of the bloc on December 1, India held around 200 meetings related to the G20 across the country on a range of its priority areas.
The G20 member countries represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
Besides the African Union, the G20 grouping comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union (EU).
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