The G20, which met last month, is missing an important opportunity when it comes to addressing the major challenges of the coming demographic upheaval. Given the projected population shift to Africa (see chart), the inclusion of only one African country in the membership is a glaring oversight, if indeed the forum seeks to be forward-looking.
Created in 1999 as a collaboration among advanced and developing economies, the group membership needs a demographic edit.
The G20 was created to focus on economic and social challenges facing a broad group of countries, a group more representative than just the G7 countries. But since then, global challenges have changed enormously. Because many of the coming economic and political challenges we face are rooted in the dramatic population changes expected by the midcentury and beyond, we should pay close attention to demographically affected countries. It would help to adjust the G20 membership to anticipate future challenges and to include major stakeholders.
The agenda for the November G20 meeting in Bali focused on global health, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation. All three priorities will be dramatically affected by global population change. In addition to South Africa, the sole African member several African countries and regional organizations have attended G20 meetings as invited guests to broaden the scope of interests. As those interests become increasingly important globally, guest status no longer seems adequate.
It is not only logical to include affected parties, but it is imperative that key stakeholders in the demographic upheaval be included as full members in the deliberations. Including such stakeholders in future meetings will improve the focus and effectiveness of the deliberations.
As discussions evolve regarding invited guest versus full membership status, it will help to understand key aspects of the coming population changes.
The global population distribution is rapidly shifting toward Africa. As projected by the United Nations, the continent of Africa, with less than 20 percent of the world’s total population today, will account for nearly 60 percent of projected population growth over the next 30 years and nearly ALL the projected growth by the century’s end. As a result, Africa will account for more than one-quarter of the world’s population by the midcentury and nearly 40 percent by 2100.