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EU to discuss debt relief for Africa –

EU countries will discuss a request for debt relief from five Sahel countries as part of efforts to help them deal with the coronavirus, European Council chief Charles Michel said on Tuesday (April 28th).

After video interviews with the leaders of the “G5 Sahel” countries – Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – Michel said the international community must do more to help Africa fight the pandemic.

Michel said the G5, whose region is on the front line of a nearly eight-year-old assault by armed Islamists, had called for foreign debt cancellation.

“We have agreed to have this debate with the (EU) member states, with our international partners – the IMF in particular,” Michel told reporters after the talks.

Africa is seen as particularly vulnerable to the pandemic, with experts fearing the continent’s weak health systems may not be able to stem the spread of the virus.

On the economic level, the fall in demand for minerals and tourism combined with the effect of confinements to slow the contagion should hammer African economies.

Michel noted that debt relief for Africa was not a new debate, but said the potentially devastating economic impact of the coronavirus had put it back on the agenda.

“I think there is a legitimate question, how is it possible to support African countries by opening this political debate on debt relief,” he said.

The IMF expects Africa’s GDP to shrink by 1.6% in 2020 – its worst result on record – while the World Bank has warned that the region could slip into its first recession in 25 years.

The G20 group of the world’s largest economies agreed earlier this month to a halt to debt payments for the world’s poorest countries, many of which are in Africa.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that the bloc had announced “an additional 194 million euros” for G5 security forces as well as the provision of basic services in fragile areas.

He gave no further details on funding, timing or whether it was new funds or funds redirected from elsewhere.

Tags : debt reliefworld bank

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