French President Emmanuel Macron announced nearly $ 1.3 billion in development aid to Africa for the fight against the coronavirus on Thursday.
Although most of the funds are reallocated to funds already set aside for international assistance, the announcement is part of an initiative by the French government to highlight the potentially debilitating impact of COVID-19 on health and the economy in Africa.
“We will probably have to consider organizing a humanitarian airlift from Europe to transport aid [to Africa] “Said Thursday the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drain.
“The needs are immense” on the continent, he added, calling for a moratorium on interest rate payments and debt restructuring in the countries where the pandemic will have the most impact.
Although the continent has not experienced the same level of coronavirus cases as other regions of the world, some observers believe it may be the next global hotspot.
“The number of cases is increasing exponentially in the African region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa of the World Health Organization (WHO), last week.
“It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in the region to reach 100 cases. It took another 10 days to reach the first thousand. Three days later, there were 2,000 cases and two days later, we were at 3,000, ”she added.
The French development agency said that African aid would include nearly one billion euros in loans to countries to help public development banks and strengthen national responses to coronaviruses. The plan includes only 150 million euros in direct monetary donations.
“COVID-19 has the potential not only to cause thousands of deaths, but also to wreak economic and social havoc,” Moeti said on Tuesday.
Nineteen countries, most of which have historical ties to France, will receive the majority of the aid announced.
France’s aid plan is in addition to the European Union’s € 20 billion aid plan for the continent, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans, which was announced on Wednesday.