India Makes History by Transforming G20 into G21: India Secures Membership by Wooing African Union, India’s Strategic Game Plan to Overtake China in Africa


On September 9th, in India Pavilion in Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s participation in the G20 of the African Union. With this, the G20, formed 26 years ago in 1997, has now become the G21. The African Union is an organization that was established by Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 1963 to secure the independence of African nations.

Gaddafi used this organization to unite African countries and challenge Western powers. Now, India has united these very Western powers in the G20 and included the African Union in the world’s most powerful economic organization.

In September 2009, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi tore apart the UN Charter at the UN General Assembly. Speaking against the dominance of Western powers in the world’s major institutions, he famously proclaimed that in the world, only God is permanent.

In this story, we will learn about what the African Union is and what India aims to achieve by including it in the G20.

On May 25, 1963, in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 32 African countries came together. This was a time when most African nations were under the domination of Western powers like Britain and France. The goal of all these leaders coming together on one platform was to free Africa from the clutches of Western countries. During the meeting, the 32 African countries formed an organization known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

During this meeting, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia delivered an emotional speech, saying, ‘The people of Africa are just like the people of other countries in the world. They are neither inferior to anyone nor superior to anyone. Until African countries achieve their independence, our mission will not be complete.’

By 1981, criticism of this organization began to surface in Africa and other parts of the world. Critics argued that this organization had become a club for dictators. It neither protected the rights of African citizens nor achieved its objectives.

Nine years later, the responsibility of reviving the African Union fell on the shoulders of Libya’s dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi. This was the same Gaddafi who openly expressed his views against the dominance of Western countries from the UN podium. Thanks to his unconventional style, he became popular not only in Libya but also across Africa.

In July 1999, during the OAU Summit in Algeria, Gaddafi announced that the time had come for Africa to unite. He proposed changing the Charter adopted in 1963. To pursue this vision, Gaddafi invited African leaders to the city of Sirte in Libya. On September 9th, in Sirte, Gaddafi presented his vision, similar to the United States of America, bringing all African nations together to form the United States of Africa. In 2002, OAU was replaced by the African Union in South Africa.

Gaddafi invested money earned from Libya’s oil reserves into this organization. In recognition of Gaddafi’s initiative, African leaders bestowed upon him the title of ‘Africa’s Son.’ African countries decided to work together. Since then, this organization has been functioning as a strong bond among African nations, with 55 African countries currently participating in it.

By making the African Union a member of the G20, India has achieved two significant objectives:

  1. Establishing Itself as a Global South Leader: India is now seen as a leader of the Global South by its efforts to secure G20 membership for the African Union, alongside China. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been positioning India as a representative of developing and impoverished nations on various international platforms, including BRICS, G20, and G7. India’s chairmanship in the African Union’s G20 membership bid is a testament to its aspiration to become a leader in the Global South. This move strengthens India’s presence and influence in African countries.
  2. Countering China’s Influence in Africa: There are three reasons why India can potentially surpass China’s influence in Africa:
    • Reduced Debt Burden: India’s approach to lending to African countries is less debt-intensive compared to China. Over the past two decades, China has invested the most in Africa among all nations, but India ranks second in terms of debt provided to African nations.
      • China’s Debt Reduction: China has recently reduced its lending to Africa. According to a World Bank report, external debt for African countries increased by 43% in 2022. In 2016, external debt was at 4 trillion rupees, which increased to 5.8 trillion rupees in 2020.
      • African countries have struggled to repay these loans, and China has been using this debt as leverage to influence their decisions. Furthermore, there have been allegations of China engaging in ‘debt-trap diplomacy.’
      • Tanzanian President John Magufuli made such an assertion in 2020 when he rejected a $10 billion offer from China to build a port in Tanzania, stating that only a ‘drunkard’ would accept such a deal.
      • India can now leverage China’s negative image in its dealings with African nations, presenting itself as a more reliable partner. India portrays itself as a more dependable partner for Africa on various international platforms. Meanwhile, China’s economic growth has slowed down.
      • According to a report, China has reduced lending to Africa since 2018, while Indian companies are preparing to invest up to $170 billion (14 lakh crores) annually in African countries. This presents an opportune moment for India to increase its presence in Africa.
  3. The Russia-Ukraine War: The Russia-Ukraine conflict that began in February 2022 has disrupted global supply lines, affecting African countries that import essential goods from Russia and Ukraine.
    • This situation has particularly impacted African countries, which rely on imports of essential commodities from Russia and Ukraine. Worldwide, 800 million people are suffering from hunger, with the highest numbers in Africa. India can assist African countries in meeting their essential needs during this crisis and strengthen its foothold on the African continent.

What game plan does India have to surpass China in Africa?

  1. Investment: India ranks second after China in terms of investments in Africa. Over the past decade, India has extended loans to 42 African countries exceeding 2.65 lakh crore rupees. This funding is aimed at providing essential services such as electricity, roads, water, and education to the people of Africa.
  2. Trade: India conducts trade in gold, coal, crude oil, and other minerals with African countries. Business between the two sides exceeded 8.30 lakh crore rupees last year. The Indian government aims to double this trade in the next seven years, and diplomacy plays a crucial role in achieving this.
  3. Diplomacy: In the last nine years, India has established 25 new diplomatic missions in foreign countries, with 18 of them specifically located in African nations. India has now even managed to secure African Union’s membership in the G20. Considering these aspects, diplomacy holds significant importance for India concerning Africa.

Additionally, Africa is home to nearly 3 million people of Indian origin, with over 1 million residing in South Africa alone. Large populations of Indian diaspora also live in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and other African countries. This People to People connection strengthens India’s ties with Africa. India is now leveraging these connections and diplomatic efforts to position itself as a strong competitor to China in Africa.”


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