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South Africa's Success at the G7's Cornwall Summit

Sonja Dobson, G7 Research Group
June 15, 2021

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa attended the G7 Cornwall Summit as a guest on June 12–13, 2021, alongside the leaders of Australia, India and Korea. At his briefing immediately after the summit, while he expressed disappointment that the African Union was not invited, he expressed his grattiude for having the opportunity to speak with the G7 leaders. The president participated in the session on Building Back Resilient on June 12 and the sessions on Open Societies and Economies and on Climate and Nature on June 13. South Africa's top three priorities were the pandemic, equitable and inclusive global economic growth, and climate change. For President Ramaphosa and South Africa, the summit was a success.

At the session on Building Back Resilient, the president stated that "ending the pandemic must be our most immediate priority." He urged the G7 to provide substantial support to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and to support negotiations to temporarily waive intellectual property protection to vaccines in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), an initiative led by South Africa and India. As only 2 per cent of Africa's entire population was vaccinated é the lowest rate in the world é vaccine access was essential. At his post-summit briefing, President Ramaphosa said he was pleased with the results of the G7's vaccine and financial donations to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility and its commitment to invest in infrastructure in Africa. Although there was no agreement on the TRIPS waiver, the G7 leaders did agree to pursue negotiations. These actions will help South Africa and other African countries to vaccinate their populations and restart their economies.

At the session on Open Societies and Economies, President Ramaphosa committed South Africa to work with the G7 members and guests "to protect and promote shared democratic values." One topic important to the country was the digital divide, likely to lead to worsened economic disparities. The president also welcomed the G7's commitment to invest in and expand education for women and girls, gender equality and women's empowerment. He noted that the African Union also prioritized investing in educating women and girls and promoting women's economic entrepreneurship.

At the final session on Climate and Nature, President Ramapahosa stressed that although he fully supported the transition to net zero and the phase-out of fossil fuels, developing countries require a lot of support from developed countries to meet these goals. This support, especially in the form of financial support, is essential for developing countries not to be left behind in sustainable development. Furthermore, mitigation is not the only answer: adaptation and implementation are also required. African countries contribute the least to global emissions and climate change, but are the most affected by heavy floods, droughts and famine that are exacerbated by climate change. To ensure an equitable and inclusive sustainable recovery, G7 leaders must lead with substantial support. President Ramaphosa stated that "we look to the G7 to demonstrate a clear commitment to significantly enhanced adaptation, technology transfer and means of implementation."

President Ramaphosa applauded the global tax reform agreement led by the G7. He was encouraged by the G7's plans to invest in infrastructure in Africa. However, he does not believe it would deter or hinder Chinese investment, as Africa is a huge continent and requires substantial infrastructure development that cannot be undertaken by one or two partners. Investment by both the G7 and China is welcomed.

As a member of the G20 and BRICS, South Africa will have more chances at their forthcoming summits to push its agenda on the TRIPS waiver, vaccine equity and accessibility, and an inclusive, global sustainable recovery. The G7 was a resounding achievement for South Africa, but there is always more to be done. By the G20 summit at the end of October, South Africa's priorities the TRIPS waiver negotiations and vaccines flowing into Africa will likely have been resolved. South Africa will be able to refresh its agenda and focus on the other pressing issues of the future.

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