The G20 summit in the city of Hangzhou, China, in 2016. The group comprised of the world’s most powerful economies / Photo: GOC

G20 presents economic plan for Africa in Berlin

A conference of the Group of Twenty (G20) on a global economic partnership with Africa will take place in the German capital on 12-13 June.

The conference, which will be attended by heads of state and governments, will propose the “G20 African Partnership” initiative whose chief object is to spur higher investment levels – particularly from foreign investors – in infrastructure and employment in the continent.

The G20 is comprised of 19 countries, the world’s most powerful economies, plus the EU. The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US.

Under the theme “G20 Africa Partnership – Investing in a Common Future”, the event is one of the activities of the Germany’s current presidency of the G20, which has placed Africa at the top of its priorities.

The conference, which will present Africa’s opportunities to policy-makers and private investors, is based on two documents published at the beginning of 2017. These are the so-called “Marshall Plan with Africa”, developed by the German Ministry of Development and Economic Co-operation, and the “Compact with Africa”, prepared jointly by the German Ministry of Finance, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The aim of the G20 Africa Partnership initiative, a central project of Germany’s G20 presidency (from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017), is to improve the conditions for sustainable private sector investment, investment in infrastructure, economic participation and employment in African countries.

Under the ‘Marshall Plan for Africa’, Germany envisages that increased investment in the continent will foster conditions that will encourage Africans to remain at home, thereby mitigating the migration crisis in Europe.

“Compact with Africa” proposes a catalogue of instruments and measures designed to improve macroeconomic, business and financing frameworks as a way to boost private investment in Africa.

The G20 African Partnership has however been criticised by some analysts as an unnecessary duplication of existing initiatives which pursue the same objectives.

Factory workers package products at Decorplast, a manufacturer and regional exporter of injection-moulded plastic goods in Ghana. Germany’s presidency of the G20 has placed Africa on top of its agenda to promote investment in the continent and create employment as a way of mitigating migration flows to Europe / Photo: African Renewal

Critics say Africa does not need another “Marshall Plan” in addition to the grandiose mega-plans and initiatives that have been tested on the continent. After all, Live Aid, Program of Action for African Recovery and Development 1986-1990, Special Initiative for Africa of 1996 and the G8 Year of Africa are just some of initiatives that have come and gone over the decades without any tangible results.

Some economists contend that what is needed is to complement the existing frameworks that Africans themselves have already established. These include the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which is the continent’s blueprint for socio-economic development and integration over a period of five decades with the vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The initiative of the leading global economies is also being criticised for not involving the African civil society in the preparation of the partnership documents.

Radical critics even go as far as seeing the G20 intervention as self-serving and that its proposals would even hurt Africa than help the continent.

They say the G20 members are majorly responsible for global exploitation, rising social inequality, climate change, wars, forced migration and impoverishment in the world. They claim the summit serves to secure the present global power structures.

International civil society activists say the initiative would mean more “free” trade through the removal of tariffs and other import restrictions in African countries which will further favour EU agricultural products.

For several years, the EU has been negotiating “Economic Partnership Agreements” (EPAs) with African governments on the liberalisation of African markets. By cutting protective tariffs, highly subsidised agricultural products from the EU can be exported cheaply to Africa, where they destroy the (mostly small-scale) farming there.

Moreover, refugee support groups say Europe under the auspices of the G20 partnership initiative may incorporate agreements that will see a systematic shift of the borders of Fortress Europe to the interior of Africa by obliging the continent’s governments to better police their borders.

On 7-8 July, the heads of state and government of the G20 will meet in Hamburg and activist groups against global capital are already mobilising to stage a protest against the powerful economic bloc and its policies.

Femi Awoniyi

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