Twin summits on African economies
This week’s Paris Conference to Support the Transition in Sudan, and the Summit on Financing African Economies, also in the French capital, offered an opportunity for the international community to help out African countries with badly-needed financing.
The Summit on Financing African Economies aimed at finding a quick fix for the problems Africa is facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The one-day summit, held on Tuesday, focused on making up for the shortfall in funds needed for future development, a gap estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at $290 billion up to 2023.
The Conference on Sudan, which convened on Monday, addressed debt relief and ways to attract international investment to the country.
During the Summit on Financing African Economies, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi focused on a range of topics of concern to African countries, including ways to enhance their integration into the global economy and facilitate technological transfers.
During a meeting with Sudan’s Sovereign Council head Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Al-Sisi said Egypt wanted to help Khartoum clear its IMF debt by allowing Sudan to tap into Egypt’s Special Drawing Rights quota at the IMF, stated the Egyptian presidency.
On the sidelines of the conference Al-Sisi held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common interest, including the latest development in Palestine.
Al-Sisi underlined the urgent need to halt attacks against Palestinians and pursue a comprehensive solution that guarantees the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state.
Alaa Youssef, Egypt’s ambassador to France, told the media this week that on the bilateral economic level Egypt is seeking to increase exports to France, especially of agricultural produce.
The issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was high on the agenda during Al-Sisi’s meeting with Macron. Egypt’s president repeated there could be no compromising Egypt’s water rights, and reiterated that a fair and binding legal agreement with clear rules for filling and operating the dam was the only way out of the current impasse. The same issue topped the agenda of Al-Sisi’s meeting with Burhan.
By hosting the Sudan summit Macron was sending a message to African states on the support they will receive if they choose to turn their backs on authoritarianism in favour of democracy. Sudan is emerging from decades of economic sanctions and isolation under Omar Al-Bashir who was ousted by the military in April 2019.
The transitional government appointed under a military/civilian power-sharing deal is trying to pull the country out of an economic crisis that has seen inflation exceed 300 per cent and shortages of basic goods.
After clearing arrears to multilateral lenders Khartoum now needs to settle its $38 billion debt to bilateral creditors, half of which is owed to Paris Club members.
France is Sudan’s largest Paris Club creditor, followed by Austria. China, a major non-Paris Club creditor, has forgiven some Sudanese debt and is pushing for the international community to do the same. Saudi Arabia, another big creditor, has said it will press for a broad agreement on debt relief.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva, and top European diplomats, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell, attended both conferences.
Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, representatives from the UN, EU, Arab and African organisations, were joined by businessmen at the conference.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly