Lusaka – Unicef has urged African countries to lobby for debt relief so that they can up their social spending.
In a new report titled “A Looming Debt Crisis. Smart Debt Relief”, the UN children’s agency said money being spent on servicing debts was better off being used for social protection and health investments.
“Something has to change. Using debt relief to support greater investment in human capital is part of the answer. We call this smart relief. Unlike the coronavirus, Africa’s debt crisis is not novel. Debt has, in fact, nearly doubled, on average over the past decade,” the report said.
“Smart debt relief should be viewed as a first step in a much larger support package for the continent, for its children, and its economic and development potential.”
IMF and World Bank projections say Africa will be the world’s slowest growing region economically this year, and an estimated 50 million people on the continent have been pushed into extreme poverty by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.
Further, Unicef estimates that more than 100 million African children have not gone to school since 2020, and there are growing levels of hunger and malnutrition. Add to this the re-emergence of health threats, cholera, malaria and measles, there are growing calls for sustainable debt relief for African countries.
Unicef, in its report, urged the G20 to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which is due to end in December, saying this will allow governments in developing countries to guarantee social spending.
“Most importantly, smart debt relief must be complemented by additional support, including grant and highly concessional finance, so that Sub-Saharan African countries have a realistic chance of closing funding gaps and protecting human capital,” Unicef added.