France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday nearly $1.3 billion of development aid to Africa for the fight against the coronavirus.
While most of the money will be reallocated from funds already set aside for international aid, the announcement is part of an initiative from the French government to highlight COVID-19’s potentially debilitating health and economic impact on Africa.
"We will no doubt have to consider organizing a humanitarian airlift from Europe to transport aid [to Africa],” France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drain, told the French National Assembly on Thursday.
“The needs are immense” in the continent, he added, calling for a moratorium on interest rate payments and the restructuring of debt in countries where the pandemic will have the most impact.
While the continent has not experienced the same level of coronavirus cases as other areas of the world, some observers believe it could be the next global hotspot.
“Case numbers are increasing exponentially in the African region,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, said last week.
“It took 16 days from the first confirmed case in the region to reach 100 cases. It took a further 10 days to reach the first thousand. Three days after this, there were 2,000 cases, and two days later we were at 3,000,” she added.
France’s development agency says that the African aid package would include nearly 1 billion euros in loans to countries to assist public development banks and to strengthen national coronavirus responses. The plan only includes 150 million euros in direct monetary donations.
“COVID-19 has the potential not only to cause thousands of deaths, but to also unleash economic and social devastation,” Moeti said Tuesday.
Nineteen countries, most with historic ties to France, will receive the majority of the announced aid.
France’s aid package is in addition to the European Union’s planned 20 billion euro aid package to the continent, Asia, Latin America and the Balkans, which was announced Wednesday.