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Macron seeks to rally support for Sudan

French government promises to lend $1.5 billion to Sudan

By AFP - May 18,2021 - Last updated at May 18,2021

French President Emmanuel Macron (centre), Sudan's Sovereign Council Chief General Abdel Fattah Al Burhan (left) and Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok pose for a photograph during the International Conference in support of Sudan at the temporary Grand Palais in Paris, on Monday (AFP photo)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday sought to rally support for Sudan including debt relief at an international summit, praising the country as an "inspiration" in its transition after years of authoritarian rule

The French government promised to lend $1.5 billion (1.24 billion euros) to Sudan to help it pay off its massive foreign debt, as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok pursues economic reforms while paying off bills of some $60 billion.

France wants the Sudan summit to send a signal about the help African countries can receive if they embrace democracy and turn their backs on authoritarianism.

Hamdok is pushing to rebuild a crippled economy and end the international isolation Sudan endured under former strongman Omar Al Bashir, whose three decades of rule were marked by sanctions and hardship.

"Despite the difficulties, considerable progress has been made since the fall of the old regime," Macron said in his opening address.

Hailing Sudan's transition as "an inspiration" and a "precedent", he said that the international community has "collective responsibility" to realise its goals.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said ahead of the summit that the $1.5 billion bridge loan would clear Sudan's arrears to the IMF.

"Rebuilding an attractive and resilient market takes time, but today I hope we will convince private investors that the fundamentals for business are fully there."

'Explore opportunities' 


Hamdok told AFP in Khartoum in the run-up to the meeting that he hopes Sudan can secure relief and investment deals at the Paris conference.

Sudan's debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, is estimated to make up around 38 per cent of its total foreign debt.

"We are going to the Paris conference to let foreign investors explore the opportunities for investing in Sudan," Hamdok said. "We are not looking for grants or donations."

Macron praised the Sudan revolution that in 2019 ousted Bashir as "post-Islamist" and said it had been unique in the region.

"For the first time in the entire region, it put an end to a regime using the weapon of political Islam to cover up its mistakes and to divide its people," said Macron.

Sudan was taken off Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism in December, removing a major hurdle to foreign investment. But many challenges persist.

Also attending will be President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, whose country has been locked in a long dispute with Sudan over water resources that has sometimes threatened to erupt into open conflict.

Several heads of state are also in Paris to discuss investment in Sudan, as is International Monetary Fund  (IMF) Director Kristalina Georgieva, along with top European diplomats including EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell.


Africa summit 


On Tuesday, a Paris summit on African economies will try to fill a financing shortfall of almost $300 billion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both meetings, held in a temporary exhibition centre near the Eiffel Tower, present a chance for Macron to show himself as a statesman on Africa whose influence goes beyond the continent’s Francophone regions.

The meetings will also mark a return to in-person top-level gatherings after the COVID-19 pandemic made video conferences the norm.

Among those attending both summits will be Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a rare visit to France as Paris presses for reconciliation with Kigali after a historic report made clear French failings over the 1994 genocide.

Africa has so far been less badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic than other global regions with a total of 130,000 dead across the continent.

But the economic cost is only too apparent, and Tuesday’s Africa summit will focus on making up the shortfall in the funds needed for future development,  a financial gap estimated by the IMF to amount to $290 billion up to 2023.


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