Paris — A Paris summit on supporting African nations hard-hit by COVID-19’s fallout wrapped up Tuesday with sweeping calls for massive financial and vaccination support for Africa — and a broader sea change in relations between donor nations and the continent.
French President Emmanuel Macron called earlier for a new deal for Africa. Among the goals he and other leaders outlined were doubling COVID-19 vaccination targets for Africa by the end of 2021 under the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme; persuading International Monetary Fund member states to triple so-called special drawing rights monetary reserves for Africa to $100 billion; and giving Africa the ability to produce and distribute COVID-19 shots at home.
Macron said this moment could be seized to respond to broader, long-standing — and, so far, unaddressed — challenges facing Africa. He said an economic and strategic new deal with Africa would not happen overnight, but the talks had triggered a new dynamic.
The same message was heard from Senegal’s President Macky Sall. He said a paradigm shift is under way in Africa’s relationship with richer nations — from having programs imposed on it to co-constructing what is needed. That offers hope, he said, because Africans know their problems better than anyone.
More than a year in the making, this meeting — gathering leaders from Africa, Europe and global financial institutions — was backdropped by a series of bleak statistics on the pandemic’s toll on Africa. If the continent has been less hard hit by the pandemic than other places, it is suffering in many other ways, with tourism and other revenues drying up.
Africa’s economy is expected to grow just over 3 percent this year — about half the world average. It faces a nearly $300 billion spending shortfall over the next few years. Experts fear millions more Africans may tip into poverty — and less than 3 percent of Africans have been vaccinated against the virus.
There is no durable exit from the continent’s economic crisis, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva said, without beating the health crisis. She said ramping up the vaccination campaign will generate trillions of dollars in additional output benefiting not only Africa but also richer economies.
“We have worked on the pathway to accelerate the exit from the health crisis, and to sum it up, it would require 40 percent vaccinations of everyone everywhere by 2021 — that is very important for Africa — 60 percent vaccinations by the middle of 2022. And then we have a hope of turning this page,” Georgieva said.
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Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who is also African Union chair, said having Africans manufacture and supply COVID-19 vaccines could help overcome the reluctance among some of being inoculated with foreign shots.
He called for greater debt relief and market access for the continent — and for international financing to take into account its fight on terror. But he also said African governments need to do their share by establishing good governance, fighting corruption and supporting Africa’s youth.
Tuesday’s financing summit wraps up two days of high-level talks on Africa. On Monday, IMF members states agreed to clear billions of dollars Sudan owes the institution as part of broader support for Khartoum’s democratic transition, and Macron announced scrapping Sudan’s $5 billion debt to France.