Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian addresses the French Parliament on initiatives to help African countries deal with COVID-19
On 8 April, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, set out before members of the French Parliament France’s initiative to help African countries, particularly the most vulnerable among them, to face and respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Minister began by unequivocally condemning comments made on a news channel by a French doctor and researcher regarding tests which could be conducted on Africans, which he described as “shocking and even morally and humanly outrageous”. Jean-Yves Le Drian also rejected “certain disaster scenarios” predicted by his Ministry’s Strategy, Analysis and Policy Planning Centre, stating that he “does not share them at all”.
The Minister stressed that in the face of the pandemic, France is first and foremost supporting the efforts made by Africans themselves. He noted that it is for that reason that the President of the French Republic was in very regular contact with his African counterparts. The French initiative aims to respond to both the shared call from African finance ministers and national requests from numerous partners.
The Minister announced that bilaterally, France would allocate almost €1.2 billion to fighting the spread of COVID-19 in Africa by redirecting a significant tranche of its development assistance to health and food issues. The needs are enormous, as African health systems must be strengthened, as well as their detection and scientific research capabilities, by supporting African research.
The Minister gave examples of several concrete programmes which have already been agreed: France will help the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) NGO in Senegal, Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic to care for the sick, as well as Doctors of the World at Kinshasa Hospital, which cares for seriously ill patients. The resources of the Pasteur Institute’s laboratories will be increased, in particular to step up national COVID testing capabilities in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Guinea-Conakry and Senegal.
In addition to this French bilateral support, Mr Le Drian highlighted the European Union’s work to mobilize, with Member States, over €20 billion for the most vulnerable countries in Africa and around the world to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic from both a health and food perspective. The Minister also raised the possibility of airlifting humanitarian supplies from Europe.
Finally, on a multilateral level, the Minister supported United Nations initiatives to ensure food security and called for an exceptional financial mobilization to support the African economies hit by this crisis. Mr Le Drian asked that we consider a moratorium on the payment of interest, or even cancelling or restructuring the debt of the hardest hit countries. The Minister highlighted that all actors must play their part.
The Minister invited the G7 and G20 to join France in this initiative for Africa.