by Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Zuzana Brixiova and Basil Jones
It has sometimes been said, unkindly, especially as memory of the G20’s contribution to resolving the global financial crisis recedes into the past, that close to 15 years since its establishment, the G20 is still a movement in search of a cause. The argument continues that the G20 is mainly a means for middling powers to exercise some global influence, while the annual attention paid them during their presidencies lasts. The last couple of years have seen Mexico, Russia, Australia and Turkey take the reins of this far-flung organization. With South Africa, the only African country in the G20, many Africans felt that the African voice in the context was marginalized and feeble. But thanks to the efforts of leaders like the late Meles Zenawi, the African voice expanded. Several African countries have been invited to specific meetings, while the African Development Bank has been a regular attendee of the G20 Development Working Group
However, the 2015 Turkish Presidency of the G20, has brought a new “buzz” to what can be expected from this collection of states, and what contribution they can make to the rich and evolving global development agenda. Already in July 2015, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development will take place in Addis Ababa, the UN Summit, where the Sustainable Development Goals are expected to be adopted, will follow in September 2015, while all will be capped by the Climate Conference in Paris in December. It is, therefore, not surprising that Turkey has put development, especially in low-income countries, at the centre of its G20 Presidency.
Turkey envisages a comprehensive approach to development during its presidency, and the issues considered include access to energy; small and medium enterprises and global value chains; beneficiation in natural resource extraction; and financing SMEs. Also important, the role of the private sector in development, will include explicitly “inclusive business.”
The five priorities for the G20 Developing Working Group include many familiar items from the past, although with considerable nuance:
- Infrastructure (focus on investment environment, project preparation);
- Financial inclusion (emphasis on youth, SME finance, women, low-income countries);
- Domestic resource mobilization (information exchange, taxation policy and capacity);
- Food security and nutrition (promoting infrastructure improvement in agriculture and enhancing human capital in smallholder agriculture and reducing food losses); and
- Human resource development (linkage to employment).
These priorities resonate well with the African Development Bank’s Ten Year Strategy, and the thrust of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Closing the infrastructure gap is a priority of the Bank and its experience in implementing the continent-wide Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa will provide useful examples for other agencies and countries. Likewise the agricultural thrust of the new G20 Presidency is similar to that of the Bank. Productivity-enhancing investments and the integration of smallholders into larger markets are shared areas of focus. On the other hand, financial inclusion is seen by the Bank as a key means of delivering on its development agenda. Moreover, the use of technology and dedicated human development can boost growth and enhance gender equality. The Bank’s participation in the G20 Developing Working Group has been an effective means of reaching out to a global audience and for sharing new approaches, notably indicators and measures of progress.