In September 2015, the world’s heads of state, governments and representatives met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and committed themselves to eradicating poverty, combating inequality, protecting human rights and addressing other pressing issues by the year 2030. Dubbed “2030 Agenda,” this plan aims to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and attain the results that the MDGs were not able to achieve.
At the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, leaders vowed to contribute to the execution of 2030 Agenda by taking advantage of their competitive edge as the top 20 economies of the world. They created an Action Plan, which is described as a “living document” with a timeframe of about 15 years, in line with the timeline of the 2030 Agenda. The Action Plan covers a very broad range of issues that are especially relevant to African nations, including the following points:
Corruption diverts much needed financial resources of developing countries to the pockets of dishonest leaders. Through the G20 2017-2018 Anti-Corruption Action Plan, leaders of the G20 have planned to fight corruption by assisting the recovery and return of lost assets, enhancing transparency, reducing illicit financial flows, and cooperating in the denial of safe havens to corrupt leaders.
In addition, there was an agreement in establishing a research center on fugitive repatriation and asset recovery in China. President Xi Jin Ping also added, “[These steps] will leave corrupt officials no place to hide in G20 members’ territories and in the world at large.” It should be noted that the Chinese government has been weeding out corrupt officials in the last few years. The Chinese government has announced that between 2013 and 2016, a total of one million high and low level officials have been punished.
Africa has also long been plagued by corruption. For instance Transparency International estimates that in 2015, 22 percent of Africans who came in contact with a public service have paid a bribe. Unfortunately, the poorest of the continent are affected the most by corruption. Transparency International reports that poor public service users are twice as likely as rich people to have paid a bribe.
Concentrating on eradicating corruption would certainly help many Africans pocket the money they would have otherwise used to grease the pockets of public servants. However, it is not clear how broad initiatives taken by the G20 will directly impact Africa’s corruption problem.
Climate Change and the Paris Agreement
Combating climate change and global warming, as well as achieving sustainable growth through green innovation are an essential part of the 2030 Agenda. In November 2015, a historical agreement was reached in the combat against climate change and its devastating effects. One hundred ninety-five countries adopted the world’s first ever legally binding climate deal to control global warming to well below 2°C. Named the “Paris Agreement,” this deal includes key elements that encompass reducing emissions, promoting transparency and accountability regarding emissions, dealing with the impacts of climate change and offering support to affected areas.
The historical Paris Agreement is critical for Africa because it is backed by a 100 billion USD financing scheme. The fund will reach this amount by 2020 and will be revised upward from 2025. The money is to be used not only to mitigate the effects of climate change in developing countries but also promote low-emission powered industrial development. Africa’s vast renewable energy resources such solar and wind power, could be unlocked through this initiative.
The Paris Agreement and climate change in general were also an important part of discussions at the G20 Hangzhou Summit. The G20 finance ministers and central bank governors called for the timely implementation of the Paris Agreement. In addition, the G20 also created the Green Finance Study Group (GFSG) to mobilize private green investment.
This is clearly welcome by many African nations. The continent contributes very little carbon emissions and yet suffers from natural disasters, including droughts, that result from climate change. Having a robust fund and strategy to mitigate these effects is certainly a big win for Africa.
Unfortunately, however, this win is under threat. After the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, the future of the Paris Agreement is in question. President-elect Trump staunchly opposes the Paris Agreement and has vowed to pull out of the deal. It is too early to tell how the Trump administration will roll back the gains from the Paris Agreement, but the consequences for African economies could be immense.