Thursday, 25 February, 2021

Europe’s helping hand to African economies


The European Investment Bank, the lending arm of the European Union (EU), has announced a Euro 5.2 billion emergency funding for its non-EU operations, with Nigeria receiving Euro 50 million (N21 billion) to provide healthcare, support small businesses and other sectors hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having devastating impact in global economies. From Africa, Europe, United States, Asia, among others, every continent has paid dearly for the pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, projects the outlook for global growth: for the year it is negative – a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse.

prioritise containment and strengthen health systems. The impact will be severe, but the faster the virus stops, the quicker and stronger the recovery.

On its part, Europe has been the worst-affected continent by the pandemic so far having recorded 182, 976 deaths as at June 15.  The five countries in Europe reporting most deaths are United Kingdom (41, 698), Italy (34, 345), France (29, 407), Spain (27,136) and Belgium (9, 655).

But in the midst of these uncertainties and massive loss of resources and lives, Europe has continued to give helping hand to other continents.

Noting the importance of unity and cooperation, the European Investment Bank (EIB), which is the lending arm of the European Union (EU), announced Euro 5.2 billion of emergency funding for its non-EU operations, the bulk of which would be sent to Africa for support to their healthcare systems and provide liquidity to SMEs.

The EIB’s effort is one of  its collaborations among European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European countries and other organisations to support countries affected by the pandemic. The EU last month said it was securing more than Euro15 billion to help its partners worldwide (including Africa) to combat the coronavirus.

“By standing united and working together, we can defeat this virus. #StrongerTogether,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, tweeted.

Also, the EU, at a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, announced a Euro 50 million (N21 billion) contribution to the implementation of a coordinated response to the pandemic in Nigeria.

In recognition of the solidarity demonstrated by the EU, President Buhari said: “Although the EU is facing significant challenges due to this pandemic, I am indeed touched and grateful that the EU still had the vision and foresight to remember its friends, partners and allies across the world”.

Meanwhile, Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, stressed, “COVID-19 must be fought globally. The EU support is focused on the people most at risk. Africa and Nigeria are vital priorities, and must not be forgotten or left alone. Now more than ever we want to show solidarity with our partners.”

The EU’s efforts, many of which have gone unmentioned, are a show of goodness towards Nigeria and Africa in a tradition that has been consistent over the decades.

EU and its member states support African Union’s activities to the tune of Euro 300 million ($342 million)  yearly while Europe remains the most open market for African export. The EU also is the main funder for educational or sanitary project, and for development aid in Africa.

Also, EU proposed the basis for a new strategy with Africa, to intensify cooperation through partnerships in five key areas: green transition; digital transformation; sustainable growth and jobs; peace and governance; and migration and mobility.

While the world awaits a vaccine and the end of COVID-19, it is critical that Africa does not fall a victim to ‘coronaspiracy’ or simply, the creation of enemies where there are only allies. The world post-coronavirus, no doubt, would be different, but it would be one where cooperation would be needed to rebuild lives and cities; synergy not just to help Africa prosper but on the basis of equal and respectful partnership.

In its subtle and more deadly form, the outbreak is driving a political and ideological wedge between nations with no benefits and only costs to its unsuspecting pawns. Africa has not been spared from this mis-judgment.

The outbreak of the virus was accompanied by a blame-game targeted at foreigners and expatriates, especially Europeans, accusing them of importing the disease to Africa in attempts to re-colonise the continent.

France was one country at the receiving end of such brutal attacks, even though the first case of COVID-19 in Africa was recorded in Egypt on February 14, involving a non-European, and Africans in diaspora were returning from around the world including Asia at that time.

Anti-European sentiments are un-beneficial for Africa, which has a strong bond and mutually beneficial relationship with Europe.

This shows that the coronavirus is not in any way a ploy by Europe to colonise Africa; for Europeans themselves the disease is a nightmare and a big cost to their economies.

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