Why India should lead Africa’s integration with the global economy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June made headlines by many accounts. One of them was endorsing US President Joe Biden’s idea to make the African Union (AU) a permanent member of the G20 – creating the G21. This initiative of African integration is an important part of India’s 2023 G20 heritage and highlights its commitment to the theme of 'Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ (One World One Family). Widely embraced by many G20 leaders, the initiative has paved the way for a conversation about what exactly this means for Africa and the rest of the world, and how India is the right partner to help build bridges for global integration.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June made headlines by many accounts. One of them was endorsing US President Joe Biden’s idea to make the African Union (AU) a permanent member of the G20 – creating the G21. This initiative of African integration is an important part of India’s 2023 G20 heritage and highlights its commitment to the theme of 'Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ (One World One Family). Widely embraced by many G20 leaders, the initiative has paved the way for a conversation about what exactly this means for Africa and the rest of the world, and how India is the right partner to help build bridges for global integration.

The meaning of Africa’s integration journey is two-dimensional, linked to diplomatic and economic integration. Diplomatic integration means giving the AU a bigger voice on the world stage. The global governance architecture represents its foundation through sheer economic scale, so that the 'Global South’, which has long represented developed countries or the 'Global North’ representing about 85% of the world’s population, presents a united front to push for reforms in governance and broader representation of the interests of developing economies.

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The meaning of Africa’s integration journey is two-dimensional, linked to diplomatic and economic integration. Diplomatic integration means giving the AU a bigger voice on the world stage. The global governance architecture represents its foundation through sheer economic scale, so that the 'Global South’, which has long represented developed countries or the 'Global North’ representing about 85% of the world’s population, presents a united front to push for reforms in governance and broader representation of the interests of developing economies.

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The continent’s economic integration is important to the world in countless ways. More than 50% of the increase in global population by 2050 (from 8 billion to 9.7 billion) will come from sub-Saharan African countries alone, underscoring the key role that Africa’s youth, workforce and economy will play in the future.

There are only seven years left to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This brings the issue of African integration to the fore as the continent is home to 33 of the world’s 46 least developed countries. Despite continued progress on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa remains geographically, logistically and economically fragmented. Bringing the AU into the G20 is an excellent first step towards strengthening diplomatic and economic integration, and a giant step forward in re-establishing multilateral trust.

India presents a valuable blueprint for its citizens to embark on a successful journey of socio-economic development, especially by harnessing the power of digital technologies, to empower African countries and promote inclusive growth and sustainable development across the continent. India’s approach to soft power is non-intrusive and partnership-based, which aligns well with the aspirations of African countries. These factors make the case for India being an ideal partner in Africa’s grand integration journey.

Another notable initiative is the creation of a Special Action Council on African Economic Integration under the Business20 (B20) engagement group by India’s 2023 presidency. It paves the way to strengthen the voice of African businesses on the global stage, while encouraging the global business community to address the need and potential of Africa’s integration. Complemented by recent initiatives such as the African Business Leaders Coalition (ABLC), the first pan-African partnership of CEOs that will allow African interests to play a steering role around modern-day priorities across forums.

That being said, one has to admit that the integration journey will have its challenges. Although divergent views are widespread, AU member states should give the AU Secretariat due flexibility and agility to present a united front on global issues. The AU must strike the right balance between continental priorities (under Agenda 2063) and global priorities, which are not always perfectly aligned. Strategically strengthen diplomatic ties with individual G20 countries to gain support and agreement on key priorities.

Sumit Gupta is BCG’s Managing Director and Senior Partner, and Patrick Dupoux is BCG’s Managing Director, Senior Partner and Head of Africa.

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