Jean-Jacques Cornish

Paris summit highlight the challenges Africa faces recovering from the COVID pandemic

Many of the two dozen African presidents arrived in Paris this week expecting another talk shop.

That is the way of multilateral diplomacy: the host builds up a meeting and then hopes to hold it together well enough to give the pre-determined final communique some credibility.

What it actually achieves needs time to ascertain.

In that respect the France Africa summit on rebuilding economies buffeted by the COVID pandemic could be seen as a success.

We have Senegalese President Macky Sale saying at the conclusion that there has to be a paradigm change in the the relationship between African nations and their donor countries euphemistically referred to as development partners.

Solutions to problems cannot be imposed by the latter. They must be co-constructed because Africans best know the problems they face.

Rhetoric? Of course. But something refreshingly different.

We also have Felix Tshisikedi, the Congolese President who currently occupies the African Union chair, talking about what the continent has to bring to the table.

He lists good governance, support for the youth and combating corruption. This has been mantra development partners for decades.

The summit, planned for more than a year by French President Emmanuel Macron, calls for a new dynamic in providing vaccines to Africa and in funding the $300 billion shortfall it has suffered from the COVID lockdown.

This requires a sea change in the attitude of donor nations who will need to double the COVID vaccine provided to Africa this year and triple it in 2022.

The IMF, says the communique, must triple the drawing rights granted to African countries to $100-billion and boost the ability of African nations to produce their own COVID vaccine.

Africa has indeed been impacted less severely by the pandemic than the rest of the world.

But this could change dramatically, as it did in India, with only 3% of the population vaccinated.

That figure recurs ominously when looking at the economic impact of COVID on Africa.

The continent’s expected grown this year will be 3% which is half of the global average.

IMF head Kristalina Georgieva provided a chilling takeaway for delegates in Paris. For Africa to recover economically, she says, 40% of its people must be vaccinated this year and 60% by mid 2022.

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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.