France pushes for global moratorium on African debt in virus crisis

Emmanuel Macron: President of France

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called for a global moratorium on debt payments by African countries to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Macron told Radio France Internationale (RFI) that he hoped a virtual meeting later on Wednesday of finance ministers from the G20 group of countries could agree the moratorium.

It should involve all major Western powers – China, Russia, and the Gulf states, as well as multilateral lenders, Macron said.

The French president said that developed countries had all responded to the crisis with massive monetary and budgetary action but Africa’s large debts as well as credit flight made such moves harder in the continent.

“Every year a third of Africa’s commercial exports go to service its debt. It’s crazy!” he argued.

Macron said he favoured a large-scale cancellation of African countries’ debts but the African Union considered that a moratorium was more likely to be fine agreement in the short term.

Macron said there was no guarantee that African countries would continue to be spared the worst of the pandemic but Europe would be better placed to help if its peak in Africa came after European countries had got over the worst of it.

France hoped to be able to produce medical equipment for African countries as well as for its own uses, but African leaders should try and delay the epidemic on their soil with measures such as lockdowns, he suggested.