The Case for an African Union UN Security Council Seat

The Case for an African Union UN Security Council Seat

As multipolarity beckons, the time has come to grant the African Union a stronger voice in the concert of nations.


In his 1996 bestseller, The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington foresaw the establishment of a multipolar world order following the end of the Cold War. The Harvard professor predicted a division of political and economic influence according to civilizational lines. As such, he advocated for a radical change to multilateral diplomacy and called, three decades ago, for each of the nine principal civilizations, including Africa, to play a central role in international affairs.

As the current global geopolitical architecture transforms in front of our eyes, an increasing number of major players are now competing for resources and influence, including through high-intensity conflicts. As a result, world geopolitics is heading toward its most unstable point since the end of the 1980s. To reflect these changing global power dynamics and retain legitimacy, the United Nations must modify its institutions to hand greater responsibility to emerging powers. The dramatic demographic, economic, and diplomatic changes in Africa highlight the practical and moral necessity of providing the continent with a greater voice in multilateral diplomacy. The African Union, which enjoys both domestic and international legitimacy, should, therefore, receive a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.


The vast majority of African countries still have a very dynamic demographic growth. According to the African Bank of Development, in 2050, the continent will be home to 25 percent of the world’s population. In parallel, large swaths of Africa are experiencing rapid economic development. The continent’s GDP could (assuming consistently high rates of growth) triple by 2050. As a result, regional and world powers are increasingly courting African states and competing for influence.

However, the most significant changes reshaping Africa’s reality are in the diplomatic arena. In the past five years, several events have proven the ability of African countries to influence world affairs according to their interests effectively.

The first example is the grain crisis triggered by the war between Russia and Ukraine. The continent, which heavily depends on wheat imports from the two belligerents, dispatched Macky Sall, Senegal’s President and then head of the African Union, to negotiate reopening grain imports with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Second, almost three months ago, South Africa led a highly publicized legal suit against Israel at the International Court of Justice. While Pretoria’s assertion of genocide was politically motivated, lacking factual basis, and ultimately rejected by the court, the diplomatic initiative showed the ability of an African country to exercise leadership on a topic of global importance.

Third, and maybe most importantly, the last decade has seen numerous African countries slowly disengage themselves from the influence of former colonial powers, Cold War patrons, and powerful petro-states. For the first time since independence, many of the continent’s nations are developing genuinely independent foreign policies based on their national interests. As such, several Sahel countries have severed ties with France, which had heavily dominated the region’s politics for decades, and established entirely new alliances. Many African nations refuse to bow to Western pressure and condemn Russia in United Nations resolutions as they see continued relations with Moscow as in line with their strategic interests. Similarly, during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Intifada, numerous African countries were forced by the Arab League to suspend their diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. However, not a single of the continent’s nations has done so following the October 7 attacks and the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Finally, Africa is slowly increasing its presence and influence in multilateral organizations. In 2023, the African Union became part of the G20, cementing its status as an increasingly influential player on the global scene. The same year, two additional African countries, Ethiopia and Egypt, joined the BRICS organization, sitting on an equal footing with major players such as China, India, and Brazil.

Such developments seemed unthinkable only several years ago. They demonstrate the ability of large parts of the continent to develop influential and independent policies in the international arena. They also justify the African Union’s need to finally access the select group of powers that determine the rules of global cooperation.

Of course, numerous obstacles still stand on the road to the Security Council. Africa’s fifty-four states have different cultures, interests, and sets of alliances, making consensus difficult to achieve. Smaller nations may also be sensitive to pressure from global powers seeking to influence the Union’s position. Additionally, conflicts between African countries could further escalate tensions within the regional organization. Constant diplomacy and significant compromise will thus be essential, particularly given the high levels of instability persisting in parts of the continent.

However, the arguments for AU representation appear more cogent today, and Africa is slowly gaining the international status it deserves. Its economies are growing, its diplomatic influence is spreading, and the prospects of its demographic growth are immense. Its main multilateral organization, the African Union, has also proven to be an effective source of legitimacy on the continent. As multipolarity beckons, the time has come to grant the African Union a robust voice in the concert of nations.

Simon Seroussi is a Mid-Career Master of Public Administration Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He previously worked as an Israeli Diplomat. The opinions expressed in this op-ed are his alone. Follow him on X: @Simon_Serr.