French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes President of the Sudanese Transitional Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan…
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes President of the Sudanese Transitional Council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, left, for a dinner with leaders of African states, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, May 17, 2021.

PARIS - France said it will cancel $5 billion in debt Sudan owes it, and Germany also offered assistance, during back-to-back Paris financing summits targeting Khartoum’s democratic transition and Africa’s economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The two days of high-level talks near the Eiffel Tower in Paris gather more than a dozen African leaders, along with top representatives of multilateral institutions, the European Union and China.

Sudan was on Monday’s agenda. Two years after overthrowing longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, the country faces a raft of challenges — as Sudanese activists like Nasreen El Saim noted in speeches. Among them: inflation topping 300% and shortages of basic goods. A big chunk of its 60 billion dollars in foreign debt is owed to the so-called “Paris Club’ of major creditors.

Sudan's transition called inspirational

President Emmanuel Macron hailed Sudan’s transition toward democracy as inspirational, saying the international community was on its side — and that the country needed to be supported economically and politically.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the country, rich in natural resources, isn’t looking for grants or donations, but rather wants the international community to explore investment opportunities.

Africa-wide talks Tuesday focus on the economic fallout of COVID-19 that has decimated tourism and other sectors. Last year, the continent fell into its first recession in more than three decades. The World Bank estimates roughly 34 million new poor — people living on less than two dollars a day — in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Experts said COVID-19 has left the continent facing a $300 billion financing shortfall.

IMF head looks to richer nations

Ahead of the talks, International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva told France 24 TV she hopes richer nations will use a planned 650 billion-dollar boost in IMF’s reserves to help the region power ahead.

“We do hear a great of concern by advance economies of a divergence — advanced economies pulling out, low-income countries falling further behind," Georgieva said. "Why this is not only an ethical concern, it is also an economic concern? Because this divergence would mean more insecurity, more instability and lost opportunities for the world economy to grow.”

Oxfam official worried

Oxfam International is also worried Africa is falling behind, for somewhat different reasons. Peter Kamalingin, Oxfam’s Pan Africa program director, said giving Africa access to COVID-19 vaccines and technology is key.

“The second thing of course is we are seeing a lot of conditions that the IMF and World Bank are continuing to give — the conditions on the loans — it’s yielding into a lot of austerity ... particularly for the vulnerable parts of the population,” Kamalingin said.

The summit — attended by leaders from Rwanda, Mozambique and Egypt — is also seen as another chance for Paris to broaden its influence beyond francophone Africa.