New Deal for Africa There is a growing international appeal for “A New Deal for Africa and by Africa” in the wake of slow pandemic recovery and a growing debt crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted a Paris-based summit on May 18, 2021, calling for a new way forward for Africa. Joined by African and European leaders, the summit aimed to address the worsening debt crisis across the African continent.

A Call for International Camaraderie

Highlighting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as a key issue, Macron urged leaders to foster a sense of international camaraderie. Macron argued that for there to be a steady return to normal, there must be a collective effort to repair the global economy. Additionally, he advocated that countries adopt a new perspective recognizing the interconnectivity of regional economies. In short, Macron stressed that the health and stability of Africa will determine the health and stability of the world.

As the pace of recovery becomes glaringly disproportionate between nations of varying economic status, Macron stressed that it would not only be unethical to leave Africa behind, it would also be to the detriment of the greater international community. Macron explicitly called for a waiving of patents on COVID-19 vaccines to speed up Africa’s recovery.

Africa’s Debt Crisis

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Africa’s debt crisis, now nearing $300 billion, will increasingly burden the continent. This crisis will continually arrest economic development in Africa and African nations will fall further behind other nations.

The pandemic has greatly exacerbated this issue. Slow vaccine distribution and lack of pandemic relief packages have led many African nations to fall further behind in development. If the situation continues, experts warn that up to 39 million Africans could fall into poverty before the year ends. Macron highlighted how an increase in poverty rates among Africans will ultimately threaten both international market growth opportunities and international security.

In 2021, the IMF recognized the sub-Saharan region of Africa to be the slowest growing on the planet in terms of GDP. The IMF voiced concern that the pandemic has undone years of economic construction and development for the region. The organization, comprised of 190 countries, fears that the pandemic’s effects will harm poverty reduction efforts for years to come.

A New Deal for Africa

After defining the severity of Africa’s debt crisis, the summit moved on toward establishing solutions. World leaders at the summit agreed a two-pronged approach toward economic recovery was necessary.

Firstly, the summit agreed that the slow vaccine rollout must be addressed. To do this, patents forbidding African manufacturers from concocting their own supplies of effective vaccines must be lifted. The patents had forced African nations to purchase their doses from the patent holders, such as Pfizer, only deepening the debt crisis. Macron states that he hoped to have 40% of all Africans vaccinated by the end of 2021. Secondly, members of the summit agreed to allocate more than $30 billion worth of relief from the IMF to nations in Africa.

In some areas of Africa, vaccine supply is so low that the World Health Organization recommended prioritizing the first dose only in order to partially vaccinate as many people as possible. As of early May 2021, six nations in Africa still had not received any doses and eight other African nations had already exhausted their supply.

Macron advocated for $100 billion to be allocated to the “New Deal for Africa” and wants wealthier nations to donate their IMF relief to Africa. Some members of the summit pushed for even more. For instance, the prime minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, stressed the need for a total restructuring of the debt system in Africa. The summit paved the way for further discussions to help support Africa.

Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is Helping COVID-19 Relief WorldwideBill Gates first became interested in the effort for vaccines and immunizations in the 1990s. Over the years, the Gates Foundation has granted vaccine programs more than $16 billion to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Gates has also made a point to speak publicly on the issue of public health routinely. In fact, Gates nearly predicted the current pandemic, saying in 2015 that “if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus” and that “we’re not ready for the next epidemic.” Six years and more than 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief worldwide in three key ways.

The Gates Foundation and COVID-19 Fundraising

The Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief is by providing funds. A central aim of the Gates Foundation is to aid global health by “[investing] heavily in developing new vaccines to prevent infectious diseases.” The foundation has upheld this promise during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving about $1.75 billion to the pandemic response. For example, the foundation provided a $300 million infusion to the Serum Institute of India. This allowed the institute to double its vaccine commitment. The bulk of the funds have gone “towards the production and procurement of crucial medical supplies.”  Notable examples of earmarked contributions include a $20 million grant to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to further research on additional vaccine candidates. Also, a $250 million donation is dedicated to ensuring low- and middle-income countries have access to the same technology and solutions as developed countries.

The Gates Foundation Launch The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator

The ACT-Accelerator is an international coalition that brings together governments, health organizations, scientists and philanthropists that represent a comprehensive effort to assist in COVID-19 relief. The platform was launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation less than a year ago after calls from G20 Leaders. The organization focuses on four pillars of COVID-19 relief: diagnostics, treatment, vaccines and health system strengthening. While the organization’s holistic goal is to coordinate a truly global response to COVID-19, it has many specific, tangible aims. These goals include bringing 500 million tests to low-and-middle-income countries by mid-2021 and distributing 245 million treatments to these populations within the next year.

Established Relationships of The Gates Foundation During COVID-19

The Gates Foundation is also using established relationships to further the COVID-19 relief effort. Bill Gates’ work over the past two decades in the global infectious disease effort has helped him create strong relationships with humanitarian organizations and influential public figures. The foundation is drawing on these connections to further its efforts. Bill and Melinda have met with international actors, such as the President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany. They also have connected with domestic figureheads, including Dr. Fauci and Sen. McConnell, to bring more attention and funding to COVID-19 relief efforts.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief through traditional methods such as donations and grants while also focusing on advocating for the equitable distribution of resources to low- and middle-income countries. Through its work in vaccine equity, the Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief worldwide in many needed ways.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

The Growing Concern of Elderly Poverty in France
Since the early 1970s, the mean standard of living for senior citizens above 65 years old in France has significantly improved. Complying with the guidelines that the second U.N. World Assembly on Aging (WAA) in 2002 and the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging (MIPAA) brought up, France keeps implementing aging policies that focus on the health and well-being of elderly people, their participation and benefits in the social development and a more enabling and supportive environment. However, elderly poverty in France remains a socioeconomic issue. As of 2012, 17.5% of French people are over 65 years old, whereas working-age people between 15 and 64 take up 63.8% of the total population. A 2019 study reported that around one out of 10 elderly people in France lives in poverty, which is to say, there are now more than one million French people of old age living below the poverty threshold.

Wealthier than the Younger Population

Although elderly poverty in France is a significant issue, senior French citizens are not the most susceptible group to poverty. The elderly population is far behind young adults, females and immigrants in terms of one’s risk of poverty. The French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) reported that in 2015, elderly people more than 65 years old are not only half as likely to fall into the lowest-earning 10% as their counterparts between the ages of 25 and 64, but their proportion among the lowest-earning 20% also decreases in the 21st century.

Such situations are the comprehensive outcome of a more continuous career and higher wages, higher retirement pensions, mandatory supplementary schemes and so on. They also have more time and opportunity for inheritance and savings, and their forms of resources are less sensitive to economic fluctuations. As such, it is not too hard to understand why the mean standard of living for elderly people is 3% higher than that for the younger generations in France.

Health Status

Yet, despite accumulated wealth, health status deteriorates remarkably with age, which may cause extra expenses that Social Security does not cover and lead to elderly poverty in France. In 2015, 43% of French people more than 65 years old endured at least one long-term illness, and the percentage keeps rising over the years.

When the deterioration in health causes a partial loss of autonomy and home care is no longer suitable, the elderly people have to live in an institutional setting such as a nursing home, and this would be another large expense that many are not able or not willing to afford. Only fewer than 2% of people aged below 75 live in a nursing institution, and for those more than 85 years old, the number climbs to 10 times higher.

The Incoming Challenge of Population Aging

As the problem of population aging is becoming increasingly serious in Europe, it is too early for the elderly to be too optimistic. In 2012, there were 15 million French people aged more than 60 years old, and this number could reach 24 million in 50 years, alongside the extended life expectancy. Over the last decade, more people went into retirement, and there were 5% of elderly people aged between 65 and 74 still in employment, many of whom were part-time employees with low qualifications, shopkeepers and older farmers.

The French government has to adjust the retirement pension and health care policies to ensure the well-being of old age. So far, various actions are underway, but the results are far from satisfying. For instance, a large national strike began in December 2019 to protest against President Macron’s pension system reform. The government must take into consideration the growing elderly poverty in France and actively work to alleviate poverty rates with policies and financial support.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in France
France, the world’s seventh-largest economy, gained national media attention as the “Yellow Vest” protest hit its 10th consecutive weekend. The protesters — originally citizens of the country’s rural areas — came to Paris to protest higher taxes on fuel. Now, three months into the protest, the movement has changed its message to target many economic problems that those living in poverty in France struggle with.

Poverty in France

This unrest has pressured French President Emmanuel Macron to do more to help the nation’s poor. He has now announced an anti-poverty plan worth 8 billion euros ($9.3 billion) aimed at appeasing the protestors and increasing the fight against poverty in France. He hopes it will get people into work and help the young. Specifically, this plan includes increasing: schooling until the age of 18, nurseries to get mothers into work, emergency accommodation with a priority for women and children, and breakfast for students in the poorest areas.

Additionally, the package includes wage increases and tax relief for low earners and retirees. Macron also launched a “national debate” to talk to the public about their economic situation. This period is to last two months, and end with a “new contract for the nation.”

Steps to Improvement

Poverty in France affects 9 million of the country’s 67 million people with a third of them being children. Macron has stated that the previous welfare system “does not do enough to prevent people from falling into poverty, does not do enough to eradicate poverty.” He has expressed frustration at previous plans, saying they “plow a wad of cash” into benefits, but produce very few results. Macron also plans to make these earlier systems more simple, as one in three people eligible for core benefits do not apply.

People know these low application rates well, in addition to the very real struggles of applying. A story on Expatica, a website that helps immigrants in Europe settle into their new countries, has a very telling story on a citizen’s attempt to apply for aid. The author describes the process of applying for three state programs providing assistance. Describing the welfare system as “tricky,” they share that one of their claims had boomeranged back to them four times and that this experience is something everyone applying should expect.

Complex Issues, Concrete Solutions

According to the author, the administration is well aware of the complexity of the process, which is exactly why it requests documents multiple times. This repetitive behavior requires applicants to deal with huge stacks of paperwork and multiple trips to state offices. Stories such as these may explain the low application numbers and also act as some of the issues Macron hopes to address in his new programs.

Although many of the protesters expressed concern over Macron’s national debate, it is extremely clear many people in the country need help, and many of the programs need reforming. With the debates and planning still in the works, it can be hard to tell exactly what is going to occur. However, the people are talking, and it appears the government is listening. The fight against French poverty is clearly still ongoing, but progress is steadily happening.

– Zachary Sparks
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in FranceLiberty, equality, fraternity. France’s national motto ensures equal liberties and rights for its people without discrimination and is a cornerstone of French democracy. As an active member of the Security Council, General Assembly, Human Rights Council and Economic and Social Council, France has a history of advocating for human rights.

However, human rights in France have been jeopardized by measures of counterterrorism accompanied by a lack of judicial regulation. The French government declared a state of emergency in November of 2015 after a series of terrorist attacks. Parliament extended the declaration until July of 2017, allowing a two-year span of infringement on human rights in France in regards to freedom of movement, privacy, security, freedom of association and even expression. Without judicial intervention, multiple accounts of infringement on freedoms without causes were reported over the two years, which mainly targeted the Muslim community in France.

During this sociopolitical trauma, the government allowed over 3,200 raids and over 350 house arrests. According to Izza Legthasa, Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, “France has a responsibility to ensure public safety and try to prevent further attacks, but the police have used their new emergency powers in abusive, discriminatory, and unjustified ways. This abuse has traumatized families and tarnished reputations, leaving targets feeling like second-class citizens.”

While France should take proper precaution to avoid and prevent future terrorist attacks, the measures taken to prevent such attacks must not promote the targeting of certain demographics of the French population in the name of security.

Although 2016 was not a proud year for human rights in France, 2017 does look more promising with the inauguration of France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron. His inaugural speech ensured that “France will always make sure to be on the side of…human rights.” The policies President Macron intends to implement will protect human rights and act as a model which other European countries can apply to their own governments for the sake of protecting personal rights and liberties.

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr