Many African countries already have experience in containing highly contagious diseases after the Ebola epidemic. © Dominic Chavez / World Bank
Many African countries already have experience in containing highly contagious diseases after the Ebola epidemic. © Dominic Chavez / World Bank

09.04.2020 The COVID-19 pandemic has now become a global challenge. According to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, it is "the greatest test for humanity since the United Nations was founded in 1945". While the corona virus is already there the comparatively well-positioned health and economic systems poses enormous problems for some industrialized nations, the forecasts for developing regions look all the more bleak. Because in poorer countries with significantly more fragile infrastructures, the virus is likely to be even more difficult to contain: even simple preventive measures such as proper hand washing are often not feasible due to lack of water and lack of soap, strategies such as home office and social distance for residents of densely populated slums far from being feasible.

Nnot lesstroubled, threaten moreover "Unprecedented economic damage," says a new report from the United Nations Organization for Trade and Development (UNCTAD). For two months now, developing countries have been confronted with, among other things, capital outflows, falling earnings from the export of raw materials and a lack of tourists. And unlike industrialized countries, poorer countries lack money for economic aid packages, UNCTAD Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi warns. A recent study by the African Union estimates that the import and export volume on the continent will collapse by 35 percent, which would correspond to a trade loss of around $ 270 billion. At the same time, public spending to fight the spread of the virus in Africa will increase by at least $ 130 billion.

Generous help must come from outside. World Bank President David Malpass has already announced plans to deploy up to $ 160 billion over a 15-month period. This is said to "strengthen the ability of emerging and developing countries to deal with the pandemic and shorten the duration of an economic and social recovery," he said. As a first step, $ 1,9 billion has already been released to 25 countries, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

The United Nations, however, are calling for global implementation of the current "Whatever it takes-Mindset in the form of a gigantic $ 2.500 billion aid package: $ 1.000 billion is to be used as a liquidity injection to support developing countries, another $ 1.000 billion will be granted as debt relief and $ 500 billion will flow into a Marshall Plan for health. That the governments of the world will mobilize such sums in the face of their own challenges, however, seems illusory.

How concrete Europe's support for Africa, the EU development ministers want in the next few days decide. The European Union, in particular, which just announced a new EU-Africa strategy with increased cooperation between the continents just a few weeks ago, would do well not to let its close neighbors down. Because the world will only find normalcy again if the pandemic is also defeated in Africa. “The problem is not solved if it is only solved in Europe. Then there could be a setback, ”says EU foreign minister Josep Borrell.

Europe would be well advised to support Africa not only in the health sector, but also in the Cushioning of huge, emerging economic collateral damage. Here too, self-interest and morality can go hand in hand. Because in the current crisis, the course is set for future political and economic relationships. Europe could learn a lot from China when it comes to maintaining relationships. The countrythat invests in Africa on a large scale is showing in any case even now in difficult times as a helper and friend active and present.

Photo: World Bank / Dominic Chavez