Jean-Jacques Cornish

France Africa summit to discuss recovery from economic collapse caused by the COVID pandemic lockdown

At a specially erected conference facility within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a summit on Tuesday of two dozen African leaders. Their agenda is topped by economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.

The meeting, which will include international economic groupings, is unashamedly a French bid to solidify and broaden relations with African nations.

Macron wants to move beyond the former French colonies to countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

It takes place against a backdrop of waning French public support for France’s gendarme role in Africa and leaders of the continent questioning the value of a series of summit meetings with Western development  partners.

Nevertheless they will fly to Paris – the only Western capital from which large quantities of COVID vaccine have been shipped by a  donor country to developing countries.

In week where we learn that 140 million doses of that vaccine supposed to go to the poorer countries via the COVAX programme will be retained to deal with India’s surge of infections, the summit participants know they will be talking to representatives of the largest vaccine financiers.

The summit will see a rare visit to France by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. This means the still smoldering issue of France’s role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is unavoidable.

Important as it is, other African leaders will also want to move beyond making up the $300-billion shortfall caused by the pandemic.

They want to leave the summit with heartening news for their people about addressing critical shortfalls in potable water, schools and healthcare facilities.

Even though the leaders of countries with which France has active disputes, such as Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso have not been invited, Macron cannot expect to escape pointed question about colonial legacies like the Central African franc, which Africans say binds currencies of former dependencies  too tightly to the French economy.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.