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Europe's biggest economy is getting more serious about Africa ahead of its hosting of a finance summit with France
During his three-country tour of East Africa on 4 May, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz became the latest European leader to give its support for a permanent African Union's seat at the G20 group of major economies.
'Africa must play a bigger role in international relations, a role that does justice to the continent and its growing population,' said Scholz at a joint news conference, after meeting African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat in Addis Ababa.
He added that he was 'convinced' that the AU's G20 membership – giving it the same status as the European Union – would be finalised quickly.
While Europe has not improved its trade and economic offer to the African continent beyond the promise of new public-private investment under the EU's new Global Gateway infrastructure investment programme, European leaders have been pushing in recent months for a bigger diplomatic role for Africa in institutions such as the G20 and UN Security Council (AC Vol 64 No 2, Grand ambitions, little money).
This new political support is intended to bolster Europe's influence on the continent, though the promises of support at G20 and UN level have been matched by Europe's geopolitical rivals Russia and China.
EU leaders are also hoping to use the 'New Global Financial Pact' summit to be hosted in Paris by France's President Emmanuel Macron in June to demonstrate that it is Africa's main ally on a new international debt relief programme and on climate finance. Much will depend on whether any clear commitments are agreed at the summit – in the wake of what were disappointing talks on financial system reform at the the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC last month.
The EU says it could also swing behind Nigeria's hopes of joining the G20. That might help both sides: although Nigeria has Africa's biggest reserves of oil and gas, it has struggled to win over western investors but has recently started discussing several ambitious plans to export gas to Europe.
Nigeria and Egypt have also been mooted as among the next set of members of an expanded BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). They typify a set of countries in the Global South which are trying to stand back from the intense rivalry between China and the United States.
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