Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has spoken out in favor of the African Union being included in the influential G20 group of leading economic powers. “That requires respect for the continent and its many states and also its growing population,” he said at the start of his three-day trip to Africa during a visit to the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa.

The G20 seat for the AU with its 55 member states is “long overdue”. Africa must play a greater role in international politics that also does justice to its growing importance.

The Chancellor was optimistic that the G20 would decide in favor of the AU joining in the foreseeable future. “I’ve had a lot of talks and I have the feeling that there is broad, growing support for this,” said the SPD politician after a conversation with the AU commission chairman Moussa Faki. He is “very firmly convinced” that the AU can be admitted soon.

From Africa so far only South Africa

The G20 currently includes 19 countries and the European Union, including the world’s most populous countries and largest economies. Members include the US, China, Russia, India and Germany. A summit meeting is held every year, the next in September in India.

From Africa, only South Africa has been included so far – a country that is currently viewed with skepticism by the West because of its proximity to Russia. South Africa has always abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly condemning Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and forms the Brics group of states with China, Russia, India and Brazil.

For comparison: South America is represented by Argentina and Brazil, Asia by China, Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea as well as Saudi Arabia, which can also be counted as part of Asia geographically.

Also Macron and Biden for inclusion

The African desire for more participation is not new. For decades, the continent’s states have been trying to get a seat on the UN Security Council. However, every attempt at reform by the body failed, also because the veto powers USA, France, Great Britain, China and Russia do not want to give up their special position.

In efforts to increase Africa’s international representation, the focus is now on the G20. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa had already spoken out in favor of a place for the AU in the group last year. He received support from French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke out in favor of the AU being admitted at the G20 summit in Bali last November. American President Joe Biden later joined Macron’s initiative.

The international community represents 1.4 billion people

With 55 countries, the AU includes all internationally recognized African countries as well as the internationally disputed country of Western Sahara. The AU thus represents the interests of around 1.4 billion people. For comparison: Only 447.7 million live in the European Union.

Economically, the importance of the AU is not quite as great, but with high growth rates in some cases. According to the International Monetary Fund, the member states generated around three trillion US dollars last year, the equivalent of around 2.7 trillion euros, while the EU, on the other hand, generated almost 16 trillion euros.

Second big trip to Africa in 17 months

For Scholz, Ethiopia is the first stop on his second major trip to Africa as head of government. It should also be about regional conflicts, renewable energies and the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. In the evening we continue to Kenya, Germany’s most important partner country in East Africa.

Scholz traveled to Africa for the first time in May 2022, very soon after taking office, and visited the Bundeswehr troops in Niger, West African Senegal and South Africa, the only G20 member on the continent. The second trip after only 17 months in office should now show that he does not want to leave the neighboring continent to his very active competitors China and Russia. For comparison: It took his predecessor Angela Merkel (CDU) almost two years to make her first big trip to Africa.

No military honors for Scholz

The AU was one reason for Scholz to visit Ethiopia. The other was support for a peace process there after a bloody civil war that left hundreds of thousands dead. The fighting between government troops and the People’s Liberation Front in the Tigray region only ended in November after two years with a ceasefire. Despite this, inter-ethnic violence still occurs in the country.

But the chancellor was not exactly welcomed with open arms in Ethiopia. Military honors – quite common on an inaugural visit like this – there was just as little as a press conference with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was once seen as the political hope for the entire continent. As a result of the war, however, little is left of the initial reforms such as a freer media landscape in Ethiopia.

AU thanks German support in Sudan

The conversation with AU Commission President Faki also dealt with another, very topical conflict: the escalation of violence in Sudan. “I have pledged all of Germany’s support for a peaceful settlement of the conflict,” said the Chancellor. Heavy fighting broke out in the country on the Horn of Africa between the two powerful generals, de facto President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy Mohammed Hamdan Daglo. The African Union has been trying to mediate between the conflicting parties since fighting broke out.

Faki thanked Germany for its willingness to support the AU in its peace initiatives. “We should find a common international voice instead of different negotiation initiatives going in different directions,” said the AU Commission President. In addition to the AU, other organizations such as the UN, the East African regional association Igad as well as the USA and Saudi Arabia are trying to get the generals to negotiate.

Federal Foreign Office on the German government’s Africa strategy