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Africa Finance Summit

President Muhammadu Buhari was in Paris, France, on a four-day official visit to attend the African Finance Summit which held penultimate Tuesday. President Buhari, along…

President Muhammadu Buhari was in Paris, France, on a four-day official visit to attend the African Finance Summit which held penultimate Tuesday. President Buhari, along with 17 African and four European leaders and heads of international organisations, were received by French President, Emmanuel Macron, host of the one-day summit.

Anchored on the revival of the African economy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit took place at the Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris. The French president’s Elysee office said the summit was aimed at putting in place financial resources capable of reviving the economy of the continent which has seen only 130,000 deaths from COVID-19, but which GDP could experience its first recession in 25 years in 2021.

Apart from Buhari, other participants who attended the event in person are the leaders of Angola, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Togo and Tunisia, and on the European side, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as the Eurpean Union (EU).

By video conference, the leaders of the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa participated. Also, the UN, IMF, OECD, WTO, World Bank and several international public banks took part in the event.

During the visit, President Buhari met with President Macron, where they discussed the growing security threats in the Sahel and Lake Chad Region, political relations and economic ties. They also deliberated on climate change and partnership in buoying the health sector, particularly in checking the spread of COVID-19 with more research and vaccines.

The president also met with some key players in the oil and gas sector, engineering and telecommunication, European Council and EU Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and Commission, and members of the Nigerian community.

Generally, the summit was to attract liquidity in Africa to the public and private sectors, which are penalised by risk premiums that drive up interest rates, with a proposal to reallocate IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to Africa, foreign exchange instruments that can be used to finance imports.

In fact, the summit was an attempt by France to create a “new deal” for African economies.

Indeed France worked hard to win over skeptics, saying that the summit agreed to work towards persuading rich nations, by October, 2021, to reallocate $100bn in IMF SDRs monetary reserves to African states.

The communique indicated that in the immediate term, it agreed to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and create the fiscal breathing room for African nations which will face a spending shortfall of some $285bn over the next two years.

But some are questioning the actual aim of the summit following the role of France as a former coloniser, especially of Francophone Africa.

Because of the suspicion and skepticism with which many view the role of former colonial masters in Africa, some persons have expressed fear that ultimately, the summit could enable France to retain its control of African economies by handing out loans and maintaining deep investments in many West and Central African economies.

One wonders why a summit on the economies of African countries would hold in France. It is hoped that this summit does not end up being part of the French effort to strengthen their paternalistic relations with former colonies and other emerging economies in Africa.  And one way of tackling that fear is for France to redeem all its promises.

In any case, it is time for African leaders to sit down and work and stop going around the world to ask for debt relief. The time for summits by African leaders, whether within or outside Africa, is over.  They need to think outside the box and work. African nations should emancipate themselves from the apron strings of their colonial masters.

They should find local solutions to their almost self-inflicted challenges. These summits have become distractions to Africans themselves and so their leaders should now be circumspect in attending these jamborees.

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