Quest for Inclusion: Africa seeks a bigger role on global stage

More African leaders are now calling for the much-elusive permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. A majority of Africans believe that the West does not have the continent’s interest at heart
The Central African Republic reiterates its support to the common position of the African Union
The Central African Republic reiterates its support to the common position of the African Union

The African Union has long championed reforms for the UN Security Council. The AU argues that the UN Security Council, with its five permanent members — the US, Russia, China, France and the UK — does not offer the continent a voice in global affairs.

“The Central African Republic reiterates its support to the common position of the African Union,” CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera said during the recently concluded UN General Assembly in New York. Touadera said the AU position “calls for the in-depth reform of the UN and the expansion of the seats of the members of the Security Council for fairer participation and more representative of all continents.”

Africa has been pushing for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council since 2005, Emmanuel Bensah, Deputy Executive Director, African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Policy Network Communications Expert for the African Union, told DW.

“This is one of the reasons why the African Union set up its own peace and security council modelled after the UN Security Council,” Bensah said, adding that the UN has and will always be the global multilateral player.

“Therefore, it is important [for the AU] to have a voice there [at the UN Permanent Security Council], the AU expert on free trade said, adding that the AU needs to lobby outside the continent to garner more support for a seat at the UN permanent Security Council.

Africa’s ‘neutrality’ in the Ukraine war

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on Africa, where fuel and grain prices have soared, but many countries have chosen not to take sides in the conflict.

AU Chairperson Macky Sall recently said Africa “does not want to be the breeding ground of a new Cold War,” alluding to the mounting pressure on the continent’s leaders to choose sides.

“Africa has suffered enough of the burden of history that it does not want to be the place of a new Cold War, but rather a pole of stability and opportunity open to all of its partners on a mutually beneficial basis,” Sall said.

He also urged Russia and Ukraine to go to the negotiation table to avert a wider global conflict.

Is multilateralism failing Africa?

In his first address at the General Assembly, newly inaugurated Kenyan President William Ruto called on world leaders to rethink multilateralism as far as Africa is concerned.

“From genocides and civil conflict to farming and pandemics, the African continent is consistently left behind to bear the brunt of weak solidarity and disastrous failure of multilateralism,” Ruto said.

“History indicates the last time Africa was the focal point of strong and effective multilateralism was during the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885,” Ruto added.

The 55-year-old leader stressed that the failure of multilateralism during a crisis often relegates the people of Africa outside the cycle of moral consideration and normalises humanitarian neglect.

He described such negligence and other casual injustices as failures of humanity.

“I don’t think the West has the best interests for Africa,” Ciku Kamau, a shoe trader in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, told DW.

“I believe if they had the best interests for Africa,” Kamau said, “Africa could have been developed as much as they are.”

Kamau also called on Africa to unite as one continent and work together, saying: “We could be [going further] as compared to working with the West and doing what the West wants.” Cristina Petro, a businesswoman in Nairobi, shared Kamau’s sentiments. “There is no way Germany or France should be more important than Nigeria or Ghana,” she said.

“At the global level, Africa is on the top,” Petro said. “Our role and the role of all those other countries should be the same at the global level.”

Petro urged African leaders to focus on Pan-African issues rather than the international community’s requests. If leaders do so, she said, “we grow stronger together.”

United by trade

In 2018, Africa established the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with 43 parties and 11 signatories.

The AfCTFA is the world’s largest free-trade area by member states after the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Foreign policy expert Elijah Munyi, a lecturer at United States International University in Nairobi, told DW that Africa could become united through trade by cutting through the red tape that has limited the continent’s presence on the global stage.

“I think the East African case is a good example of how difficult it is, but the East African Community has been making progress in terms of some of those bottlenecks,” Munyi said. According to Munyi, the biggest weakness at the African continental level is the hindrance to intra-African trade caused by high tariffs.

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