G20 welcomes African Union as a member for inclusive voice

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New Delhi, Sept. 10: The Group of 20 top world economies welcomed the African Union as a member, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Saturday, adding momentum to his drive to give a greater voice to the Global South as host of this year’s annual summit.

Modi announced the membership during his opening speech for the weekend summit of the G20. Growing global rifts and the absence of key players threatened to make reaching consensus on the thorniest issues elusive.

There was widespread support, however, for adding the AU to the G20, making it the second regional bloc to become a permanent member after the European Union.

Modi rapped his gavel three times before announcing the move to applause in the room.

He shook hands with the current AU chair, Comoros President Azali Assoumani, and embraced him warmly before inviting him to sit at the table.

“I invite the representative of the African Union to take his place as a permanent member of the G20,” Modi said.

Modi has made giving voice to the Global South a centrepiece of this year’s summit, and adding the AU at the outset was a strong step in that direction.

He told leaders they must find “concrete solutions” to the widespread challenges that he said stemmed from the “ups and downs in the global economy, the north and the south divide, the chasm between the east and the west,” and other issues like terrorism, cyber security, health and water security.

Modi addressed the delegates from behind a nameplate that listed his country not as India but as “Bharat,” an ancient Sanskrit name championed by his Hindu nationalist supporters that his government has been pushing at the G20.

With much of the world’s focus on the Russian war against Ukraine, India wants to direct more attention to addressing the needs of the developing world at the summit — though it is impossible to decouple many issues, such as food and energy security, from the European conflict.

“Friends, after COVID-19, the world is facing problems of trust deficit,” Modi said. “The war has further deepened this trust deficit. If we can beat COVID, we can also triumph over the trust deficit caused by the war,” he said, though he avoided mentioning the names of any countries involved. (AP)

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