The government is concerned about the strategies of influence led by China, but also Russia and Turkey, on the African continent.
France will reform its development aid to “suggest another wayto its partners in Africa, in the face of new players such as China, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Economy announced on Thursday. “It is not conceivable to leave free rein to the new actors that we see getting involved in the field of development“, declared the head of diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian, after having participated in the very first presidential council devoted to development aid.
These new players, including China according to his colleague from the Economy, have “methods and intentions such that it is essential that we be there to offer another path to our partners“, underlined Jean-Yves Le Drian. France has also been concerned for some time about the strategies of influence carried out by Russia and Turkey on the African continent.
Jean-Yves Le Drian recalled that French development aid reached nearly 11 billion at the end of 2019, which enabled France “to return to the game after a few years of eclipse“. By 2022, it will be increased to 0.55% of national wealth, against 0.44% currently, “an achievable goal“.
A bill was introduced on Wednesday to “generate new momentumto this development policy, indicated Jean-Yves Le Drian, emphasizing that it is “the culmination of three years of workin consultation with all development aid actors, including NGOs and parliamentarians. This text will mark a “change of gearin terms of aid volume butit is not only about doing more but also about doing bettersaid the minister.
For the 19 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa, aid will be concentratedin the form of donationsand France also intends to better define its thematic priorities, by investing inthe future of global public goods», such as health, climate and biodiversity conservation, education and gender equality. Jean-Yves Le Drian announced a new innovation fund for development which will be financed by the State and chaired by the economist Esther Duflo, and a “renewal of the international expertise offerwith the contribution of young people from the African diaspora.
The Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire recalled that after a growth of 3% in 2019, African countries will experience a recession of 3% on average in 2020 and, therefore, an increase in poverty. “The recession is aggravating the public debt of these countries well beyond their repayment capacities and their economic capacities“, whereas “the indebtedness (of these countries) has tripled in the last decade“.
Bruno Le Maire said he wanted to avoid “relive the early 2000s with over-indebtedness, growing economic difficulties and then limitations to global economic growth“. He thus justified the decisions taken by France such as the suspension of debt service for the poorest countries, “a moratorium extended until June 2021“, which has enabled countries like Cameroon, for example, to save “half of its annual health budget“.
The other major paradigm shift was the establishment of a “coherent and sustainable framework for restructuring and relieving the debt of the poorest countriesin which all G20 countries and private creditors participate. And “for the first time China participates“, which is “a positive and major step forward“, estimated Bruno Le Maire.
France would like to go further anddevelop a long-term reflection on the financing of African economies“, said Bruno Le Maire. An international summit with African leaders and financial institutions will be organized in France in May with the idea of ”lead to very effective, fast and implemented solutions without delay“.