The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye has held deliberations with a cross section of Development Partners, Ambassadors and International representatives on finding ways to forgive Africa’s debt, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that have faced African economies in particular, as a result. This forms part of efforts African Speakers’ Debt Cancellation Campaign Initiative (DCCI).
In the wake of the pandemic, the World Bank forecasts that Sub-Saharan Africa will collectively fall into recession for the first time in 25 years. The World Bank statistically projects that between 26 and 39 million people in the region are at a high risk of falling into extreme poverty.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign report also indicate that twenty African countries now face increased difficulties with 50% of African countries spending more on debt repayments than they do on healthcare and education, which are key for human capital development.
Prior to the pandemic, the debt levels of numerous African countries were reaching unsustainable levels; according to information from the IMF, debt-to-GDP ratios in African countries have increased from an average of 43% to 62% from 2013 to 2018; Twenty-two (22) African countries have debt-to-GDP ratios of over 60%, the threshold set by the African Monetary Cooperation Program for prudent debt levels.
Prof. Oquaye, speaking on behalf of Conference of Speakers & Heads of African Parliament (COSAP), at the meeting with the Diplomats and Development partners, urged Development Partners and Developed nations to consider cancelling debts for developing countries in Africa, since this is a perennial matter.
Speaker Oquaye insists that there is an urgent need for for Debt Cancellation since African countries are facing challenges Increase in health expenses and other expenses, shortfalls in petroleum, Slowdown of foreign direct investments, Reduction in trade volumes, Decline in international price of crude oil, Exchange Rate Volatility and Debt Service difficulties, Increase in the price of food and water.
Prof. Oquaye said that in the light of global advocacy efforts, the establishment of a more cohesive pan-African parliamentary voice to support the global and regional campaigns for Africa’s debt cancellation has become imperative; hence, the African Speakers’ Debt Cancellation Initiative was birthed as a means to establish that cohesive pan-African parliamentary voice of the continent to support the global campaigns advocating for Africa’s debt cancellation.
The Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, and Chairman of Heads of Mission of Development Partners H E Mr. Tsutomu Himeno, speaking on behalf of his colleagues said developed nations are open to discussing debt cancellation for Africa, taking the total sum of the COVID 19 pandemic on all countries in the world.
One of the key issues that also came to the fore was that the lending architecture of the world has changed drastically and nations are no longer the major world lenders, there is therefore the need to address issues of debt forgivenesses, cancellation or suspension to the appropriate quarters. The British High Commissioner H.E Ian Walker expressed the UK’s preparedness to work towards easing Africa’s economic difficulties. The American Ambassador, H.E Stephanie Sullivan referred to the interventions of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries programme and how those were to cure the ills of debt burden inAfrican countries. The American ambassador urged African countries to refer to the lessons learnt from that intervention to avoid future occurrences.
The formation of the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments (COSAP) was proposed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. The founding members include: Rt. Hon. Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana, Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia, Hon. Justin Bedan Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker, House of Representatives, Nigeria, Rt. Hon. Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda, Hon. Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal, and Hon. Thandi Modise, Speaker, National Assembly, South Africa.