Macron calls for debt suspension to help Africa cope with coronavirus
French President Emmanuel Macron called for a debt moratorium to help African countries cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in an exclusive interview with RFI.
In his televised speech to the nation on France’s plans to deal with the next stage of the Covid-19 epidemic, Emmanuel Macron made a fleeting reference to aid to Africa.
The French president told RFI he was urging G20 finance ministers to agree to a suspension of debt payments during a conference call Wednesday evening.
“As long as the crisis lasts, we must ensure that African economies have room for maneuver, that they are not held back by debt repayments.” Macron told Christophe Boisbouvier of RFI at the French presidential palace in Paris.
For the French president, the moratorium would be a step towards the final cancellation of the African debt.
Asked how creditors in Europe, the United States and China could be persuaded to give up $ 365 billion in debt, Macron referred to the use of the Special Drawing Rights of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a growing political will.
“This [moratorium] means to suspend the payment of interest, to give a little respite. We are expanding the debt, and maybe over time everyone will agree with this idea of “debt cancellation”.
International calls for debt relief
Macron isn’t the only senior official calling for a debt moratorium in recent days.
The IMF and the World Bank have also called on rich countries to suspend or cancel the debts of poor countries during the coronavirus pandemic.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday he expected his counterparts in the United States, China, Europe and other members of the G20 group of major economies to fund debt suspension plans for 76 countries, including 40 in sub-Saharan Africa.
While the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have affected Africa less than other parts of the world, Macron called for caution and said the continent already faces unsustainable economic problems.
“Difficulties will continue to arise even if Covid does not become a health disaster,” Macron said, arguing that the continent’s debt as a percentage of GDP has increased from 30% of GDP in 2012 to 95% today and that one third of African commercial exports are used for debt service.
“We absolutely must help Africa to strengthen its capacity to cope with the shock of its health system. In addition, we must help the continent economically to respond to this crisis which is already there. It is our moral and human duty, ”he declared.
In the short term, Mr Macron said debt relief should be matched with emergency funds for intensive care beds and respiratory units to bolster some of the world’s most fragile health systems.