French President Emmanuel Macron this week hosts African leaders and heads of global financial institutions for twin summit meetings that will seek to help Sudan into a new democratic era and provide essential funding for Africa swept away by the COVID pandemic -19.
A conference attended by several heads of state on Monday will aim to rally support for Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. Hamdok came to power after Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019
This will be followed by a summit on Tuesday on African economies which will attempt to close a funding gap of nearly $ 300 billion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two meetings, organized in a temporary exhibition center in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will be an opportunity for Macron to show himself as a statesman on Africa whose influence goes beyond the French-speaking regions. from the continent.
With around 20 African heads of state due to attend Tuesday’s summit, it will be one of the largest high-level in-person meetings held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also expected to see a rare visit to France by Rwandan President Paul Kagame as Paris pushes for reconciliation with Kigali after a landmark report made clear France’s failures in preventing the 1994 genocide.
Hamdok a this AFP in an interview ahead of the meeting, he hopes Sudan can help wipe out a $ 60 billion foreign debt bill this year by signing relief and investment deals at the Paris conference.
Sudan’s debt to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to account for around 38% of its total external debt of $ 60 billion.
“We are going to the Paris conference to allow foreign investors to explore investment opportunities in Sudan,” Hamdok said.
“We are not looking for grants or donations,” he added.
Hamdok and his government pushed to rebuild the crippled economy and end Sudan’s international isolation under Bashir, whose three-decade iron-fist reign was marked by economic hardship and international sanctions.
Sudan was blacklisted from Washington’s terrorist sponsor states in December, removing a major barrier to foreign investment.
But many challenges remain.
His government lobbied for peace with rebel groups to end conflicts in the western region of Darfur as well as in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Africa has so far been less hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than other parts of the world – with a total of 130,000 deaths across the continent – although the human disaster in India shows it is far too early to spell it all.
But the economic cost is all too apparent, with the International Monetary Fund warning in the fall that Africa faces a shortfall in the funds needed for its future development – a financial deficit – of $ 290 billion until 2023. .
A moratorium on public debt servicing 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 servicing all external debt until the end of the pandemic.
“We are collectively abandoning Africa using solutions that date back to the 1960s,” Macron said last month, warning that failure would result in reduced economic opportunities, sudden migration flows and even the expansion of terrorism.
International finance leaders will include IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva as well as World Bank chief operating officer Axel van Trotsenburg.
Serge Ekue, President of the West African Development Bank (BOAD), said AFP that Africa needed much longer loan maturities exceeding seven years and an interest rate of 3% instead of 6%.
“In West Africa, the average age is 20 years. You walk around Abidjan (the largest city in Côte d’Ivoire) and there is incredible energy, ”he said, noting that Africa had experienced growth rates of 5 to 6% in recent years. 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 get a suspension, ”he said.