PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron hosts African leaders and the heads of multilateral lenders in Paris on Tuesday to find ways of financing African economies hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss handling the continent’s billions of dollars debt.
The summit is part of Macron’s efforts to recast France’s engagement in Africa, where it was once a colonial power, at a time the continent faces a near 300 billion dollar deficit by the end of 2023 while trying to recover from the downturn.
“The peculiarity of Africa is that it does not have the financial means today to protect and revive its economy like all the other continents have done,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told RFI radio on Tuesday.
The summit will bring together some 30 African and European heads of state, as well as the heads of global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund.
The African Development Bank estimates that as many as 39 million people could fall below the poverty line this year with many African countries at risk of debt distress because of the pandemic.
Macron has said he believes Africa needs a “New Deal” to give the continent a breath of fresh air.
World finance chiefs agreed in April to boost reserves (SDR)at the International Monetary Fund by $650 billion and extend a debt-servicing freeze to help developing countries deal with the pandemic, although only $34 billion will be allocated to Africa.
“France wants this to go much further by reallocating SDRs that are (scheduled) for developed countries,” an official from the French presidency briefed reporters ahead of the summit.
The replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association, which provides emergency aid, private sector investment, and the broader question of how to treat the debt crisis will be discussed.
“The president has spoken of massive debt cancellations, and continues to think that it is very important to give liquidity to African countries and allow them to invest,” the official said.
Macron on Monday said he wanted to fully cancel the $5 billion Sudan owes it.
(Reporting by John Irish and Richard Lough)