President Ramaphosa leaves for France to attend President Macron’s summit

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa on August 25, 2019, in Biarritz. | File Picture: Francois Mori AP Pool

FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa on August 25, 2019, in Biarritz. | File Picture: Francois Mori AP Pool

Published May 16, 2021


by Stuart Williams and Eve Szeftel

Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa will depart for Paris, France, to participate in the Summit on the Financing of African Economies this evening.

At the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, African leaders and chiefs of global financial institutions will attend twin summit meetings this week that will seek to help Sudan into a new democratic era and provide Africa with critical financing swept away by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, and the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, will accompany President Ramaphosa.

The purpose of the summit is to support the economic recovery of African countries that have been affected by the health and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It also aims to foster investments in Africa and avert the risk of excessive debt.

Delegates will deliberate on debt relief and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through special drawing rights (SDRs).

Leaders will also look at how to provide capital to the private sector on the African continent to support investments that will catalyse inclusive economic activity, create employment and accelerate the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.

The Summit on the Financing of African Economies follows a series of global stimulus packages initiatives, including the World Bank’s $14 billion fast-tracking of Covid-19 financing, the African Development Bank’s $10 billion Covid-19 Response Facility and the International Monetary Fund’s concessional financing and debt relief to assist countries and companies in their response to the pandemic.

Ahead of the summit on the evening of Monday, President Ramaphosa will attend the Welcome Dinner in Honour of African Heads of State and Government hosted by President Macron.

President Ramaphosa will hold bilateral meetings with participating leaders to enhance South Africa’s diplomatic relations.

European leaders, representatives of G7 and G20 countries and of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are among Summit delegates.

The conference on Monday will also aim to rally support for the Sudan government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in the transition after the 2019 ousting of longtime strongman Omar al-Beshir.

Hamdok told AFP in an interview ahead of the meeting he hopes Sudan can help wipe out a $60 billion foreign debt bill this year by securing relief and investment deals at the Paris conference.

Sudan's debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to make up around 38 percent of its total $60 billion foreign debt.

"We are going to the Paris conference to let foreign investors explore the opportunities for investing in Sudan," Hamdok said.

"We are not looking for grants or donations," he added.

Hamdok and his government have pushed to rebuild the crippled economy and end Sudan's international isolation under Bashir, whose three-decade iron-fisted rule was marked by economic hardship and international sanctions.

Africa has so far been less badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic than other global regions -- with a total of 130 000 dead across the continent -- although the human catastrophe in India shows it is way too early to sound the all clear.

But the economic cost is only too apparent, with the International Monetary Fund warning in the autumn that Africa faces a shortfall in the funds needed for future development -- a financial gap -- of $290 billion up to 2023.

A moratorium on the service of public debt 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 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," Macron said last month, warning that failure would lead to reduced economic opportunity, sudden migration flows and even the expansion of terrorism.

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