G20 grants African Union permanent membership

The African Union has been granted permanent membership to the G20, host nation India has announced, in an historic expansion of the economic bloc.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi invited the president of the 55-member African Union (AU) to take a seat at the table among permanent members at the opening of the two-day summit on Saturday morning.

Modi said there was consensus among existing members to approve the move.

The G20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union working to address major issues relating to the global economy, climate change mitigation and sustainable development goals.

G20 host, Modi made the announcement at commencement of the weekend summit of the group as he addressed the delegates.

The current AU president Azali Assoumani, who is also president of the Comoros, was escorted by Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar to a seat and Mr Modi rose to hug him amid a round of applause from delegates.

The inclusion of the AU in the grouping of the world’s richest countries will mean the first expansion of the bloc since it was formed in response to an Asian financial crisis in 1999, comprising the world’s 19 largest economies as well as the European Union.

“I invite the representative of the African Union to take his place as a permanent member of the G20,” Modi said.

The proposal of the AU to join the G20 got the backing of Washington and on Friday, the European Union said it would also back the move.

“I look forward to welcoming the AU as a permanent member of the G20”, European Council president Charles Michel told reporters in New Delhi, where the two-day G20 summit begins on Saturday.

The AU is the second regional bloc to become a permanent member of the G20 after the European Union.

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