EU aid: the impact of coronavirus in Africa could be devastating

Coronavirus in Africa could be devastating, which is why Europe’s response should go beyond our borders, said development committee chair Tomas Tobé.

EU Covid-19 aid on its way to non-EU countries

Given the vulnerability of healthcare systems in many developing countries, the coronavirus could have devastating effects, warn members of Parliament’s development committee.

The EU is working to support its member states and cushion the economic impact in Europe, but the coronavirus is a pandemic and knows no borders. In a resolution from 17 April Parliament underlined the need for international cooperation and solidarity and a strengthening of the UN system, and the Wolrd Health Organization in particular.

EU global response to Covid-19

On 8 April the EU launched Team Europe, a package of more than €20 billion to help the most vulnerable countries, in particular in Africa and the EU’s neighbourhood, in the fight against the pandemic and its consequences. Most of this funding comes from reorienting existing EU funds and programmes.

Parliament supports efforts by the European Commision for a global response by the EU. MEPs have also joined calls from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to suspend debt payments by the world’s developing countries.

Find out more about the EU’s global response in our video at the top of this article ↑.

Interview with Tomas Tobe
Interview with Tomas Tobe

As Covid-19 continues to evolve in Africa - it is now present in all but two countries - we asked Swedish EPP member Tomas Tobé, the chair of Parliament’s development committee, about the EU response.

Is the EU doing enough to help non-EU countries fight the coronavirus or should we step up our response?

Yes and no. Yes, we coordinate through Team Europe the allocation of €20 billion [for more information check the fact box further down], but we also need to make sure that member states step up their action, because we need new and fresh money. As the EU we need to coordinate and make sure that we actually reach out to the most in need. There is very probably underreporting of cases in many countries in Africa, that is why we have to act very quickly.

Do you think EU concern about the situation in Africa could diminish in the face of our current domestic challenges?

No. I think everybody kind of understands that we are in this together. This pandemic doesn't know any borders and we need to be successful everywhere. And it's quite clear that in Africa the challenge is really big. Because there are more vulnerable people, the healthcare system isn't good enough in many states, there are not enough hospital beds.

It's in the interests of solidarity to make sure that we do everything we can to save human lives. It's also in a way a European interest because we don’t want to see the second and the third wave of this pandemic reaching Europe from neighbouring countries.

At the beginning of March, the European Commission published a new EU-Africa strategy. Is it still relevant in the context of the corona crisis?

I think it is very relevant because it points out that we need to build a new partnership with Africa, where we leave this donor-recipient perspective. We need to see many of the African countries more as partners. The worldwide economic decline due to the coronavirus underlines the importance of a new strategy.

The most important thing now is to make sure that we actually make this partnership happen. Hopefully, we will have an EU-Africa summit in October. As the European Parliament, we are preparing our position on the strategy.

Find out what the EU is doing to fight the coronavirus

Team Europe - the EU support package of €20 billion - focuses on:

  • Providing emergency response to the immediate health crisis and humanitarian needs
  • Boosting health, water and sanitation systems
  • Mitigating the social and economic consequences