European Commission urged to do more to support efforts to contain Coronavirus pandemic in Africa

EU also told to jettison ‘Big Charity’ model and treat continent like a true partner.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

23 Apr 2021

The demand comes with concerns rapidly growing about the number of new variants of the Coronavirus in Africa.

Experts believe the emergence of new Coronavirus variants in Africa have contributed to an increase in both cases and deaths reported in many countries on the continent.

Most African countries have experienced a second wave of the pandemic and some, such as Kenya, Egypt and Tunisia, have seen a third wave.

Speaking earlier this week at a special event in the European parliament on EU-Africa relations, Belgian MEP Assita Kanko said the European Commission should do more to support local authorities and local initiatives that can help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in African countries.

Kanko told the event hosted, by the Parliament’s ECR Group that, "This help needs to be targeted to assist those who need it most and are facing the most precarious situations."

The online webinar focused, in particular, on managing the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past month, new cases across the African continent rose by two percent.

"For those countries who are housing refugee populations, it is essential that in cooperation with local authorities, the EU helps provide the necessary hygienic conditions and medical support” Assita Kanko MEP

In Africa, over 3.9 million cases have been reported across all countries, with 106,000 reported deaths.

Participants at the virtual debate also discussed women’s rights in Africa and the impact on this of the pandemic.

On the rights issue, Kanko added, "For those countries who are housing refugee populations, it is essential that in cooperation with local authorities, the EU helps provide the necessary hygienic conditions and medical support.

"In particular, the EU must support women who are put at even greater risk of domestic violence, inequality and economic hardship due to the pandemic.

"For so many women and girls around the world and in Africa, COVID has brought greater risk, instability and harm into their lives. It is essential that we do not lose the momentum in the fight against female genital mutilation, human rights and child marriage."

Speaking separately, a Commission spokesman explained what the EU is doing to help control the spread of the virus in Africa.

"It’s time for the EU and its Member States to provide African countries with a long term partnership. We need a fresh and modern approach to young and dynamic African nations. We must shake off our “Big Charity” model and treat the continent like a true partner” Anna Fotyga MEP

The spokesman said, “The commission, through its partnership with the African Union, has worked in collaboration with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), African Union Member States and other international partners, to support Africa's response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the implementation of the Africa joint continental COVID-19 strategy.”

Earlier this week, Janez Lenarčič, European commissioner for Crisis Management, announced a €100m EU “humanitarian initiative” in support of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Africa.

The commission spokesman added, “This EU initiative, with a steering role of the Africa CDC, will support two complementary dimensions of the vaccination campaigns in Africa in close cooperation with the EU’s humanitarian partners - one that will help to reinforce national health systems’ resilience to epidemics and the other targeting specific humanitarian settings.”

Another speaker at the online event, Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, ECR spokesperson for foreign affairs, said, “Our relations with Africa are of utmost importance for the future of both continents, as the stability and prosperity of Europe and Africa are intimately linked.

“The EU is among the first to help the African continent, while destructive policies employed by other actors lead to the detriment of African nations, creating a negative knock-on effect for the EU.

“Therefore, we cannot risk becoming reactive to Sino-African dynamics and Russian engagement in fragile states. It’s time for the EU and its Member States to provide African countries with a long term partnership. We need a fresh and modern approach to young and dynamic African nations. We must shake off our “Big Charity” model and treat the continent like a true partner.”

The event, called “Looking forward: The EU and Africa in a post-pandemic world,” started on Wednesday and concluded on Thursday.

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