Africa's G20 presence boosts Global South
It’s high time Africa, a significant global populace, participates in deciding our collective future.
India’s presidency of the G20 has been much more than the breathtaking diversity, culture, hospitality and beauty of India on display. It has been Global South diplomacy at its best.
Reflecting on Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s pivotal proposal for the African Union’s permanent G20 membership, I am pleased to see such a major geopolitical shift. With the AU poised to represent a quarter of the global population by 2050, this move underscores the value of Global South leadership. Africa must now embrace its deserved seat at the table. As the Yoruba proverb goes, “Àtiwáyé ìleke alágídígba ò sehìn èkùro (nothing can be done in the absence of the person whose availability is crucial). It’s high time Africa, a significant global populace, participates in deciding our collective future.
India’s proposal for a seat at the G20 table underscores both power and the duty to amplify the voices of underrepresented nations. The efficiency driving this inclusivity is testament to the sherpas and Indian civil service members, whose diplomatic finesse and behind-the-scenes diligence ensure smooth processes. Their unseen efforts command deep admiration.
This year has been a watershed moment for global health. G20 discussions, with their newly invigorated inclusivity, have not only made a significant impact on the global stage but have also resonated deeply across continents, notably Africa. At this juncture, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) process, which seeks to establish a definitive framework to shield the world from future pandemics, emerges as vitally significant not only for the G20 member States but for the whole world. It calls for an unwavering focus and steadfast commitment.
Digital health emerged as a beacon at G20. From telemedicine to digitally-powered diagnoses, and even to the intricate dance of vaccine allocation, digital innovations have been pivotal. India, tapping into its rich heritage of innovation and adaptability, has played a pivotal role leading to a historic joint launch of the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) with the World Health Organization (WHO) at the health ministers’ meeting. India’s CoWIN programme is a phenomenal demonstration of the benefits of digital initiatives to accelerate and enhance the delivery of medical interventions at scale. CoWIN facilitated end-to-end development and delivery of health interventions, providing a digital backbone for India’s Covid-19 vaccination programme from vaccine manufacturing, through to distribution and vaccination, including vaccine certification.
The pandemic highlighted South-North dynamics and affirmed that knowledge-sharing isn’t unilateral. Africa’s digital vaccine certificates, like Trusted Travel, demonstrate the South’s tech innovation prowess. As we recognise that health crises don’t exist in isolation but intertwine with broader global challenges, India’s blend of digital transactions, even at roadside stalls, points to the vast potential of digital health in remote areas. India’s emphasis on merging conventional health care with traditional remedies offers a holistic approach, championing age-old wisdom for modern wellness.
The interplay between health and economy is starkly evident, with both health and finance ministers highlighting their interdependence. As PM Modi observed, health is at the epicentre of our decisions. The G20’s emphasis on a pandemic platform, championed by WHO and with strong LMIC representation, is pivotal. India’s G20 biofuel alliance, converting biowaste to energy, serves as a model for Africa’s sustainable growth. Amidst G20 challenges, India’s skilled diplomacy and dedicated civil service achieved a consensus, showcasing the Global South’s unity and the unsung heroes fostering global accord.
With Brazil having taken up the G20 presidency, the horizon is brimming with opportunities. From continued discussions on resilience and manufacturing to further forays into digital health, the stage is set for enhanced collaboration and a reimagining of power dynamics. In the storied halls of the G20 meetings, I felt the winds of change, led in no small part by the energy of India. I hope that forthcoming G20 (or perhaps G21) might be an opportunity for those of us from the Global South to stand not just for ourselves but for every nation, every voice, and every individual. Here’s to a future where every voice is heard, every challenge is met head-on, and every nation marches forward, united in purpose and vision.
Ayoade Alakija is chair, African Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA) and WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). The views expressed are personal