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The German EU Council Presidency – COVID-19 and the Need for a stronger EU-Africa partnership

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted political priorities around the globe. All of a sudden, people around the world face a global health emergency with deep economic and social ripple effects. For the government of Germany, the recovery from COVID-19 has become a political priority both at home and abroad.

In Nigeria, Germany works closely with government agencies and engages with local communities at the same time. In this endeavor, the German Embassy Abuja recently initiated a project focused on providing free face masks and hand washing stations to local communities in Nigeria. This project was officially launched in two communities in the F.C.T. on August 3. Masks have been sourced sustainably from fabric off-cut and produced by female tailors from disadvantaged groups, improving communal health and creating local income opportunities. The materials carry the logo of the current EU Presidency, which Germany assumed on July 1 for the next six months. Our message: the recovery from COVID-19 is our joint responsibility.

That rings true for Europe’s engagement with Nigeria and Africa at large. For the year of 2020, Europe and Africa have set themselves an ambitious agenda for an ever-stronger EU-Africa Partnership. The new President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, made her first official visit outside the EU to Addis Ababa underlining the EU’s strong commitment to advance the partnership. Europe and Africa are united by a shared understanding of an effective multilateralism and a rules-based international order, where the global challenges of our time are addressed collectively: peace and security, climate change, sustainable growth, digitisation and migration – to name but a few.

When COVID-19 struck at the beginning of this year, it revealed in drastic ways how interconnected we all are. While the rapid spread of the pandemic has impacted all of us, it has not affected us in similar ways. It has hit Africa particularly hard, causing severe economic, social and humanitarian damage.

For Europe’s partnership with Africa, the present crisis has reinforced our determination for closer cooperation, guided by a sense of shared responsibility and solidarity. In a joint Financial Times op-ed, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other African and European leaders have stated firmly: “only a global victory that fully includes Africa can bring this pandemic to an end.”

As Germany has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Africa is 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 neighbouring continent to respond to the immediate priorities of African states, societies and people in need in this crisis.

In making a strong commitment to “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 people in Africa. Amongst other bi- and multilateral commitments,

· Germany backs the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its coordinating role in the fight against COVID-19 by increasing its annual commitment 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 CEPI and an additional €100 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance;

· Within the G7 and the G20, we have strongly advocated for a moratorium on debt payments for least developed countries and 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 the most vulnerable groups, including refugees and displaced persons in conflict regions, and to keep the humanitarian logistical system up and running.

Without collective action, solidarity, and empathy, it will be impossible to tackle this global challenge. If we uphold these values in our joint effort against COVID-19, we can apply them to many other pressing global challenges we are facing together. The upcoming AU-EU Summit is a milestone for jointly developing a broad and ambitious political agenda that will deepen our strategic cooperation in the long term. During its term as Council Presidency, Germany will lend its full support to an ever-stronger EU-Africa partnership aimed at building a shared and brighter future for our peoples.

Birgitt Ory

Ory is German Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS

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