Lusaka – Africa must devise sustainable strategies to avert contracting new and odious debts, so as to free up more resources for investment in critical areas such as healthcare, the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) has said.
AFRODAD executive director Mr Jason Braganza this week told the Pan African Media Conference on Debt and Development that a combination of pre-existing structural problems, the COVID-19 pandemic and unsustainable debt were driving the continent into poverty.
The conference was organised by AFRODAD in collaboration with ActionAid and Oxfam, and drew participants from across Africa.
Data at hand shows that as a proportion of GDP and export earnings, Africa’s debt of about US$350 billion is the highest of any developing region. The high debt levels impede public investment in infrastructure and human development, and this in turn deters private investment.
Mr Braganza said, “Africa’s unsustainable debt is the biggest problem affecting Africa’s growth and we need to come up with a collective approach to resolve the debt and other pandemics that have affected the continent.”
He appealed to developed nations to honour their commitments to debt waivers as espoused under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to give the continent the wherewithal to navigate turbulent economic waters.
Mr Braganza challenged the media change the perception that the continent was unwilling to meet its various obligations, and instead work positively to support initiatives that would result in Africa overcoming its debt burden.
Mr Peter Kamalingin, the programme director at Oxfam Uganda said the strain debt and COVID-19 had placed on public resources meant African countries were unable to focus on social development.
Dr Claudia Pollen of the Consumer Unit Trust Society in Zambia said the country’s increasing indebtedness had pushed it into crisis; and called for sustainable debt service mechanisms.
She also called on governments to exhibit transparency in the manner in which they contracted debt and allocated the resources, an issue that AFRODAD has been lobbying for through engagements with legislators and other stakeholders.
AFRODAD has also been at the forefront of lobbying the IMF to issue as much as US$3 trillion in Special Drawing Rights so as to give developing countries the fiscal space to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and find their way out of current economic recession.