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, digitization and migration – to name but a few.
When COVID-19 struck at the beginning of this year, it revealed in drastic ways to what extent we have become interconnected on our planet. The rapid spread of the pandemic 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 has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the next six months. Africa is now at the heart of the EU’s global response to COVID-19, echoing the United Nations’ call to ‘build back better’. As ‘Team Europe’, we stand with our neighbor continent to respond to the immediate priorities of African states, societies and 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. Amongst other bi- and multilateral commitments,
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 over €500 million (incl. €250 million for the WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan), making it the largest donor;
We are expanding our cooperation with the African Union’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 €908 million which includes €230 million for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and an additional €100 million 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 €450 million in additional humanitarian assistance to ensure food security, water supply and sanitation for particularly vulnerable groups, including refugees and displaced persons in conflict regions, and to keep the humanitarian logistical system up and running.
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. During the coming six months, in its role as EU Council Presidency, Germany will spare no effort to advance the transcontinental partnership. Europeans and Africans belong together on our double continent. May this challenging pandemic galvanize us to become closer to each other, in the interest of our more than eighty nations.