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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 22nd September 2023

Africa states its case as demands for UN reform grow

Blue Lines

The 40 African leaders at this week's UN General Assembly contrasts with the absence of four leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and points to an imbalance in multilateralism. Geopolitics helps explain it. Russia's invasion of Ukraine breaches the UN charter and President Vladimir Putin has been indicted for war crimes.

Yet this UN summit was meant to discuss how to reform the multilateral system – UN institutions as well as the IMF and World Bank. That's not going to make much progress in New York, nor at the foreshortened IMF and World Bank meetings next month in Marrakech, still recovering from its devastating earthquake.

African leaders have filled some of the vacuum. In his maiden speech, Nigeria's Bola Tinubu made a pitch for West Africans to push back against military coups, but played down earlier threats of force against the Niger junta. And South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa passionately asserted the continent's right to green energy, saying that Africa 'would no longer pay for the industrialisation of the north'.

Kenya's William Ruto is proving adept at juggling bilaterals at the heart of UNGA summitry. On 18 September he co-hosted a food security summit with Samantha Power of USAID. The next day he met with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, pledging support and offering to establish a 'grain hub' in Kenya to address shortages in East Africa.