Post-mortem on the G20 Summit

(MoFA 04/10/09):-Leaders of the Group of 20 met in London on 2nd April 2009. The leaders recognized the urgency of addressing the global economic crisis which continues to seriously affect the lives of women, men and children in every country and called on all countries to join in the resolution of this global crisis. They underlined the importance of ensuring the foundation for sustainable globalization and raising prosperity for all through an open world economy based on market principles, effective regulation and strong global institutions. The final communiqué which came out at the end of the meeting stipulated inter alia the measures needed to restore growth and jobs, to strengthen financial supervision and regulation, restructure financial institutions, promote free global trade and protection and recovery for the poorer countries of the world.

Africa, for the first time, was able to participate in a meaningful fashion, from the preparatory process up to and including the main G20 summit. The UK government, prior to the main meeting, invited Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia along with the leaders of Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Botswana and the Finance Minister of South Africa, to consult with it on the African perspective on the global economic crisis and the measures needed to be taken to protect the continent from the vagaries of the current global economic downturn. Subsequently, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in his capacity as Chairperson of NEPAD and as the agreed representative of Africa to the G20 summit, held consultations with the other African leaders on the salient features of the African position. Following these consultations, he articulated the agreed issues, especially the need to mobilize additional resources for Africa so that it could overcome the impact of the global recession. Well aware of the budgetary constraints currently facing development partners, he outlined new mechanisms to mobilize resources, some previously adopted by Africa’s Finance Ministers. These mechanisms can raise additional resources without causing budgetary pressure on development partner countries. They include inter alia the sale of part of the IMF gold reserve, the issuance of new Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and up-front re-capitalization of the African Development Bank. In addition, Prime Minister Meles emphasized the need to relax the debt criteria to give an opportunity for African countries to secure funding from financial facilities of the World Bank. He also called on development partners and the IMF to cut the conditionalities and put in place fast-track disbursement mechanisms for aid. The issue of African voices in international financial institutions, currently insignificant, was also raised, and the Prime Minister urged that African voices be taken more seriously. Africa’s representation, he made clear, must be given necessary weight during the restructuring process of the international financial institutions.  

Following the G20 consultation meeting, the Prime Minister engaged in bringing the African position to the attention of the Ambassadors of the G8 and G20 countries in Addis Ababa, and raising these issues with various visitors to Ethiopia. He continued this after arriving for the Summit in London. Together with Dr Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Donald Kaberuka, President of the ADB, he mapped out a strategy on continuing consultations, contacting various G20 leaders, including President Barack Obama; the Managing Director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn; the President of the World Bank, Robert B. Zoellick,; and South Africa President, Kgalema Motlanthe, to make sure that Africa’s point of view was well captured in the final communiqué of the G20 summit. This strategy worked well, and in the main conference the Prime Minister successfully explained why Africa should be included in the global action to address the impact of the current recession. He highlighted the main and immediate challenges Africa faces in this critical time of economic downturn, and made clear that the remarkable results registered by African countries in the implementation of Millennium Developments Goals would be lost if timely support was not provided. Fragile peace agreements existing in various African countries could be undermined by the effects of the global crisis. The international community must not let Africa lose the momentum of growth and slide into conflict. 

In his capacity as representative for Africa and chairperson of NEPAD, Prime Minister Meles also carried out a number of interviews with both print and electronic media to underline Africa’s concerns. He attended a press conference at Lancaster House during the pre-summit visit and coverage included an article by David Loyn on the BBC website. He had interviews with the Financial Times, for a 2nd April four-page special G20 report on “Africa and the World” and for a short film that appeared on the FT website. The FT quoted the Prime Minister in a range of articles leading up to the summit itself. The Prime Minister was interviewed by David Frost for his Al Jazeera program “Frost over the World”, (broadcast 10th April),  and by Zeinab Bedawi for the BBC HardTalk series (broadcast 9th April). Both also did short interviews on the G20 that went out on 2nd and 3rd April. The Prime Minister told Channel 4 News that there was general agreement that global action was now required to address this systemic crisis; and after the Summit, he told the Financial Times, “I think we made a very significant level of progress”. He was also interviewed by First magazine for a future issue.  

Overall, the Prime Minister has expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the London G20 Summit, but he has stressed strongly that there must a complete departure from past procedures of the conditionalities applied by the IMF and World Bank in the implementation of the recommendations pertaining to Africa. If Africa is to be insulated against the financial crisis, funds should begin to flow before the third quarter of this year. Africa was able to secure $50bn from the Summit, out of which $30bn is additional resources. The challenge now is to make sure that what has been committed in London will be implemented in time to prevent Africa from sliding into economic and social crisis. Ethiopia now hopes that the G8 meeting in Italy will ensure that the priorities that Africa has set and which have been accepted by the G20 will be fully implemented. It is important to underline that these measures need to be monitored within a very dynamic framework, to ensure that Africa comes out unaffected and stronger from a global financial downturn which has not been of its own making.