News and Comment: The G20 and Africa

In my Africa in World Politics class this week, I’ve been talking about the role of African states in global economic governance. This has been a focus of my own research, stressing the important roles coalitions can play, but how those roles are strongly influenced by the institutional and strategic environments that states operate in.  At the World Bank or IMF, African coalitions tend to have no impact due at least partly to the power and voting structure of those institutions. At the WTO, coalitions have had major impacts in negotiations (the Cairns Group in the Uruguay Round, the “Cotton Four” group of African countries more recently).

Right now many of the important issues regarding our global economy are being debated by a forum of industrialized and emerging market countries, the G20. Their meeting in London next month, appropriately is targeted at dealing with the current financial crisis and its spillover effects.There is one African state member of that group, South Africa, and other African states are expected to be present in less formal roles as well.

There is some hope that African issues will have a place on the agenda at the G20 meeting. But as Kofi Annan argues in a guest column on, Africa needs to have more systematic representation at the G20 if the G20 is going to be an important decision-making forum. Also, African states need to continue their hard lobbying for greater voice at the IMF and World Bank, especially given the important role the IMF plays in developing the norms of the global financial system.  My suggestion would be that African states concentrate on encouraging decision-making rules that favor coalitional behavior.  If the lessons of the WTO tell us anything, it is that some institutional settings provide greater scope for developing country influence than others.

See also: Daniel Bradlow’s post at Opinio Juris

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