The coronavirus could fast get out of control in Africa and the EU must step in to avoid ramifications for the bloc, the EU’s top diplomat said Friday.
“If we don’t solve the problem in Africa, we will not solve it in Europe and Africa is of particular concern to us,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told a video press conference after a gathering of EU foreign ministers.
“They are our neighbors and the pandemic there could get out of control very rapidly,” he said after ministers discussed, among other issues, how to tackle the spread of the virus in non-EU countries.
“We have to help Africa in our own interest … Even if we solve the problem in Europe it will not be solved if it is not solved everywhere, because it can backlash at any moment,” he said. Diplomats cited the example of China, which closed its borders because of the prevalence of coronavirus elsewhere.
Even before the coronavirus crisis, Africa was a top priority for the EU. Foreign ministers in December described 2020 as the “pivotal year” in the relationship between Africa and the European Union.
In Africa “they don’t have the same health care capacity that we have in Europe,” Borrell said, noting that EU countries have an average 37 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants while in Africa the ratio is one per 1,000. When it comes to hospital beds and intensive care units, “the difference is overwhelming.”
The former Spanish foreign minister said the EU is now working on a package of resources that would be aimed “toward the fight against coronavirus in many fragile African countries.”
He said he has called a meeting of EU development ministers Wednesday to discuss the plans.