Covid-19 as trigger for a stronger EU-Africa ties

Thursday July 9 2020



Albrecht Conze

Albrecht Conze 

By Albrecht Conze

For the year of 2020, Europe and Africa have set themselves an ambitious agenda for an ever stronger EU-Africa partnership. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, made her first official visit outside the EU to Addis Ababa underlining the EU’s commitment to advance this partnership.

Europe and Africa are united by a shared understanding of an effective multilateralism and a rules-based international order where we jointly address the global challenges of peace and security, climate change, sustainable growth, digitisation and migration.

When Covid-19 struck at the beginning of this year, it revealed in drastic ways to what extent we have become interconnected. The rapid spread of the virus has affected all of us, albeit in different ways. It has hit Africa particularly hard, causing severe economic, social and humanitarian damage.

However, it has also triggered new initiatives. The crisis has reinforced Europe’s determination to seek an even closer partnership with Africa, guided by a sense of shared responsibility and solidarity. In a recent Financial Times op-ed, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other African and European leaders have summed it up: “Only a global victory that fully includes Africa can bring this pandemic to an end.”

A few days ago, Germany assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EEU for the next six months. Africa is now at the heart of EU’s global response to Covid-19, echoing the UN’s call to ‘build back better’. As ‘Team Europe’, we stand with our neighbour continent to respond to the immediate priorities of African people.

Strongly committed to the concept of ‘Team Europe’, Germany has taken extensive steps in the fight against Covid-19, for example, by helping to build resilient health systems and mitigate the economic and social impact for Africans. Among other bi-and multilateral commitments are:

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Germany backs the World Health Organization (WHO) in its coordinating role in the fight against Covid-19 by increasing its annual contribution for 2020 to more than €500m (incl. €250m for WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan), making it the largest donor.

We are expanding our cooperation with AU’s Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to advance diagnostics and disseminate information;
We support the European Commission’s Coronavirus Global Response initiative and the WHO-initiated global ACT platform to develop and ensure an equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Germany’s commitments amount to a total of €908m which includes €230m for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and an additional €100m for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance;

Within the G7 and the G20, we continue our strong advocacy for a moratorium on debt payments for least developed countries. Within both these groupings, we have secured additional credit lines through the World Bank and the IMF.

Moreover, the German Federal Government, already the world’s second largest bilateral humanitarian donor, is providing €450m in additional humanitarian assistance to ensure food security, water supply and sanitation for particularly refugees and displaced persons in conflict regions.

Only through collective action, and guided by a spirit of solidarity and empathy, will we be able to tackle this unprecedented global challenge. If we manage to uphold these values in our joint effort to control Covid-19, we can then also apply them to many other pressing global challenges.

The upcoming AU-EU Summit will be a milestone for jointly developing a broad and ambitious political agenda that will deepen strategic cooperation between Africa and Europe in the long-term. As EU Council Presidency, Germany will advance the transcontinental partnership. Europeans and Africans belong together on our double continent.

Dr Conze is the outgoing Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany. He is about to leave Uganda
after a tour of duty of three years.

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