France hosts summit to strengthen post-Covid African economies

High-level talks seek to narrow the gap between developed and poor countries

France's President Emmanuel Macron, Senegal's President Macky Sall and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, issue a statement for the Summit on the Financing of African Economies, at the Grand Palais Ephemere, in Paris, France May 18, 2021. Ian Langsdon/Pool via REUTERS
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African leaders gathered in Paris on Tuesday for a summit dedicated to supporting the continent's financial recovery from the damage wrought by Covid-19.

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to discuss helping African countries deal with debt and find solutions to the economic crisis.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said the summit sought to reverse the “dangerous divergence” between advanced economies and the developing world.

“We have to go back to the strong development Africa had before Covid, for Africa and for the rest of the world. We have to put our resources strongly behind growth and social improvement in Africa.”

Ms Georgieva said Africa’s economy was expected to grow only 3.2 per cent in 2021 compared to an average of six per cent for the rest of the world.

“We have to boost growth, public and private investment in Africa,” she said. “We can do that by mobilising financing from international organisations, from bilateral donors and of course from the countries themselves.”

Mr Macron said there was scope not only "to respond to urgent needs … but also to make from that situation an opportunity to tackle problems we've seen for a long time".

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, the current head of the African Union said that Covid-19 had “left our economies impoverished because we had to use all the means we had, the few means we had, to fight against the disease".

“This is a great opportunity for Africa,” he said.

The IMF said in late 2020 that Africa faced a $290 billion shortfall up to 2023 in money needed for future development.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Africa “does not have the financial means today to relaunch its economy”.

In comments to RFI radio, he warned of the risk of a “great economic divergence between Africa, which would go backwards, while the United States, Europe and Asia recover strongly”.

Last month, Mr Macron said a failure to properly support the African continent would hamper economic progress and see a surge in migration.