Africa courts EU for unused World Bank, IMF reserves

Saturday October 30 2021
The EU Commission headquarters

The EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. African governments have requested European nations to reallocate their unused reserves at the World Bank and the IMF. PHOTO | FILE

By Johnson Kanamugire

African countries are courting European Union members to reallocate their unused reserves at the World Bank and the IMF towards supporting cash-strapped economies that are weighed down by debt and reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

They say the reallocation, together with trade deals and an end to inequity — such as global vaccine distribution and certification — are critical to future relationships with Europe.

“Financing of our economic recovery partly through the historic decision on the Special Drawing Rights would cement efforts to engage productively on the economic level,” said Monique Nsanzabaganwa, deputy chair of the African Union Commission, while presenting African governments’ sentiments to the AU-EU ministerial meeting in Kigali on October 26.

“We look forward to the reallocation of unused Special Drawing Rights allocations through the World Bank and IMF to increase access to finance by developing countries, the most in need of which are found on the African continent.”

Without giving details, the EU promised more support on debt sustainability, including reaching out to countries that hold a large part of Africa’s debt.

“We Europeans are no longer the biggest holder of African debts. We are working hard to swift implementation of the G20 framework debt treatment. We are working to increase the allocation of Special Drawing Rights to benefit Africa,” said EU high representative and vice president Josep Borrell.


The EU commissioner for international partnership Jutta Urpilainen had not answered our queries on vaccine waivers and pending trade agreement by press time. The AU is pushing to undertake impact assessments of economic partnership agreements and bilateral free trade agreements on the implementation of the agreement establishing the Africa continental free trade area, as well as finalisation of the readiness assessments towards the establishment of an African Customs Union.

Ms Nsanzabaganwa said the AU equally demands creation of a joint working group of experts to work out modalities of continent to continent co-operation as regards matters trade and investment anchored on the African Customs Union.

Issues linked to the global response to the pandemic have tainted Africa-European relationship with first the denial of IP Rights for cheaper vaccine production; the bias in vaccine access and distribution, and enforcement of the controversial Covid passports pitting the EU against African countries.

The EU made €1 billion ($1.15 billion) commitment to support the production of vaccines, medicines and health technologies in specific African countries including Rwanda where a €100 million ($115 million) mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility is planned by 2024 as per the contract entered between the government and BionTech on Tuesday.

Rwanda’s minister for Health Daniel Ngamije told The EastAfrican that the government banks on the EU and other partners to mobilise funding for the plant expected to produce Covid-19 vaccine and those for malaria, tuberculosis and other complex but life saving vaccines.

WTO ministerial conference is scheduled from November 30 to December 3 in Geneva, Switzerland.