Thu, 24 Jun 2021

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday hosts African leaders and the heads of global financial institutions for a summit meeting that will seek to provide Africa with crucial financial aid in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Africa has been less badly hit by the pandemic than other global regions -- with an official total of 130,000 dead across the continent.

However, the International Monetary Fund warned late last year that Africa faces a $290 billion shortfall in development funds by the end of 2023.

A pause in the repayment of public debt agreed in April last year by the G20 and the Paris Club group of creditor countries, was welcomed but will not be enough on its own.

Many observers have called for 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," French leader Macron said last month, warning that failure would lead to reduced economic opportunity, increased migration flows and even the expansion of terrorism.

International financial leaders attending Tuesday's Paris summit will include IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, as well as World Bank managing director of operations, Axel van Trotsenburg.

The summit will close with an afternoon press conference, co-hosted by Macron and Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, whose country holds the rotating African Union presidency.

Africa needs longer loans, cheaper rates

Serge Ekue, the president of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), told the French AFP news agency that Africa needs much longer than the current seven years to pay back loans, and interest rates that were 3.0 percent rather than 6.0 percent.

"In West Africa, the average age is 20. You walk in 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.

The summit comes a day after a conference on Monday attended by several heads of state, that aimed at rallying support for the Sudan government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the transition after the 2019 ousting of longtime strongman Omar al-Bashir.

Macron notably announced that France would cancel almost $5 billion in debt owed by Khartoum in order to help a transition he described as an "inspiration".

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 since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other key figures attending include Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Originally published on RFI

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