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Africa Absent: Where Is Africa at the G7 Hiroshima Summit?
Julia Tops, senior researcher, G7 and G20 Research Groups London
May 21, 2023
At first glance, African countries do not seem to have a seat at the table at the G7's 2023 Hiroshima Summit. The guest list includes only the Comoros, invited as the current chair of the African Union. At the G7's 2022 Elmau Summit, South Africa and Senegal were present, where G7 commitments were made to support Africa on energy, food and agriculture, development, infrastructure, regional security, and crime and corruption. In a sharp contrast with Japan's 2000 G8 summit, when it invited South Africa, Senegal, Algeria and Nigeria, at Hiroshima, African development seems to have been lower on the agenda, despite the continents still facing continuing and compounding challenges this year.
Regional security is a major topic on the Hiroshima agenda. It includes Asian security and the war in Ukraine, especially given President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's anticipated attendance in person at the Hiroshima Summit. These issues have eclipsed the still pressing crises in Somalia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Mozambique, Guinea and the African Union's involvement in Chad, dealing with a variety of challenges including conflict. When the G7 foreign ministers met in Karuizawa on April 16–18, 2023, they only referred to Africa as the tenth regional concern in their communiqué. The G7 Hiroshima Leaders' Communiqué does address Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and terrorist activities in West Africa in one paragraph of the 40-page document. That paragraph also mentions concern for Africa with the increasing presence of Russia-affiliated Wagner Group in Africa. However, Africa has gone from being among the leading regional areas for discussions and decisions on security to being reduced to inclusion in three paragraphs on the last two pages of the communiqué, in comparison to top-ranking Ukraine, which earned its own document. It seems G7 members have glazed over Africa, and have dived into Eastern Europe and the Indo-Pacific instead.
In addition, finance and development, two of the most pressing concerns for African countries, have been minimally discussed in the context of Africa, if at all. Financial collaboration between the G7 and the African countries appears only twelfth on the list with one paragraph of the 13-page communiqué issued by the finance ministers and central bank governors in Niigata on May 13. G7 commitments that contain a financial contribution with a specific timeframe have been found to have higher compliance, based on G7 Research Group findings; such an absence of any substantial planning will likely manifest itself in little attention to Africa in the G7 leaders' documents. Development, a paramount concern for Africa, was not an issue that earned a ministerial meeting under this year's Japanese presidency and was only mentioned in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals in the leaders' communiqué. This lack of specificity may hinder the G7's progress, shifting the consideration of Africa development to the G20 alone, with continued reiterated support for the G20 Compact with Africa.
So how does the G7 at Hiroshima reflect African countries' interests? At the bilateral meetings among leaders in Hiroshima, only some have mentioned Africa, such as France and Japan, in the context of Sudan. Comoros, which is representing the African Union, is the fourth smallest African country by territory, with a population of only 850,000 in 2019, and has among the worst income inequality globally with half its population living below the poverty line. Extending invitations to key countries in regions of Africa would help to make meaningful strides in understanding their very real needs.
To that end, on the first page of the G7 Hiroshima Leaders' Communiqué, where key connections are made, Africa's inclusion and representation in multilateral forums is fifth on the list. Discussing greater representation for Africa is a welcome first step. The communiqué does speak of preserving stability and prosperity in North Africa and the importance of supporting African partners with ownership transparency for the integrity and transparency of democratic systems. Additionally, the Hiroshima Action Statement for Resilient Global Food Security supported humanitarian assistance in countries with emergency food insecurity, including in the Horn of Africa, as well as engaging with the African Union on the African agenda for food security and nutrition; however, there it is reduced to a single sentence in an six-page document.
African interests do seem to have a better future in the G20. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, suggested that including the African Union as a permanent G20 member would help reverse global inequality and poverty, which are currently trending downward. This year and in the previous two years, the G7 leaders have reiterated their support for the G20 Compact with Africa, suggesting that maybe the G7 will pass tackling this issue along to the larger global governance group.
Overall, Hiroshima seems to be a far cry from the historic 2005 Gleneagles Summit, where Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the African Union made their debut for a ground-breaking discussion on debt, aid, trade and AIDS, and the 2002 Kananaskis Summit, where the leaders of Nigeria, Senegal and Algeria sat down as equals with the G8 leaders to produce the Africa Action Plan. Will the G7 do better next year, when Italy, so close to Africa, hosts the G7 again?
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Julia Tops is a senior researcher with the G7 and G20 Research Groups London. She has served as co-chair of summit studies for the G7 Research Group as well as a lead analyst and compliance director of the G7 Research Group. She holds a master of science in development studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interest focuses on development, specifically related toinfrastructure and infrastructure financing.
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