Thu, 24 Jun 2021

France's President Emmanuel Macron is this week to host African heads of state and global financial leaders for twin summit meetings aimed at helping Sudan into a new democratic era and providing Africa with critical financing after the coronavirus pandemic.

A conference Monday attended by several heads of state will aim to rally support for the Sudan government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the transition after the 2019 ousting of longtime strongman Omar al-Beshir.

This will be followed by a summit Tuesday on African economies that will try to fill a financing shortfall of almost $300 billion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both meetings, held in a temporary exhibition centre under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will be a chance for Macron to show himself as a statesman on Africa whose influence goes beyond the continent's francophone regions.

With some two dozen African heads of state due to attend Tuesday's summit, it will be one of the biggest in person top level meetings held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It should also see a rare visit to France by Rwandan President Paul Kagame as Paris presses for reconciliation with Kigali after a historical report made clear France's failings in preventing the 1994 genocide.

New opportunities

Hamdok told AFP in an interview ahead of the meeting he hopes Sudan can help wipe out a $60 billion foreign debt bill this year by securing relief and investment deals at the Paris conference.

Sudan's debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to make up around 38 percent of its total $60 billion foreign debt.

"We are going to the Paris conference to let foreign investors explore the opportunities for investing in Sudan," Hamdok said.

"We are not looking for grants or donations," he added.

Hamdok and his government have pushed to rebuild the crippled economy and end Sudan's international isolation under Bashir, whose three-decade iron-fisted rule was marked by economic hardship and international sanctions.

Sudan was taken off Washington's blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism in December, removing a major hurdle to foreign investment.

Cheaper, longer debt

The economic cost of the Covid-19 pandemic on the African continent is all too apparent, with the International Monetary Fund warning in the autumn that Africa faces a shortfall in the funds needed for future development -- a financial gap -- of $290 billion up to 2023.

A moratorium on the service of public debt agreed by the Paris Club and the G20 in April last year was welcomed but will not be enough on its own. Many want a moratorium on the service of all external debt until the end of the pandemic.

"We are collectively in the process of abandoning Africa by using solutions that date from the 1960s," Macron said last month, warning that failure would lead to reduced economic opportunity, sudden migration flows and even the expansion of terrorism.

International financial leaders attending will include IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva as well as World Bank managing director of operations Axel van Trotsenburg.

Serge Ekue, the president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), told AFP that Africa needed much longer loan maturities that went beyond seven years and interest rates that were 3 percent rather than 6 percent.

"In West Africa, the average age is 20. You walk in (Ivory Coast's biggest city) Abidjan and there is incredible energy," he said, noting that Africa had seen growth rates of 5-6 percent in the last years.

"The issue is therefore not so much a moratorium as obtaining low rates. Because it is better to issue new, cheaper and longer debt than to obtain a suspension," he said.

(with AFP)

Originally published on RFI

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