Africa’s Debt

Africa must not pay its debt.

"The time has come to end this charade. The debts are unaffordable," said Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to Annan on antipoverty targets.   "If they won’t cancel the debts I would suggest obstruction; you do it yourselves"

I  unequivocally  believe that African debt and other 3rd world debt for that matter, should be cancelled and if the west refuses to cancel then they should refuse to pay.   The West had better begin to get the message that it will never have security when the rest of the world is living in poverty.  Furthermore Africa’s debt is illegal:

Illegitmate Debt

In light of the circumstances under which much of the debt of African countries was incurred, and in recognition of the mistakes of both borrowers and lenders, as well as of the harmful effects of Africa’s debt on the continent’s development, Africa Action considers much of Africa’s debt to be illegitimate. The illegitimacy of the debt is based on the following principles:

* Debts contracted by dictatorships or repressive regimes, and used to strengthen the hold of these regimes, are illegitimate, for instance the apartheid-caused debt inherited by South Africa. This has also been termed "odious debt" (an established legal principle).

*Illegitimate apartheid-caused debt also includes the debt incurred by neighboring countries who were destabilized and against whom war was waged by the apartheid regime in South Africa.

* Debt contracted by formally democratic but corrupt governments, which was stolen by leaders or senior officials, is illegitimate. This has also been referred to as "stolen wealth".

*Debts contracted and used for improperly designed projects and programs are illegitimate. There is heavy responsibility on creditors here, particularly on the World Bank for its failed development projects.

* Debt that swelled because of high interest rates and other conditions imposed by creditor governments and banks is illegitimate. This perspective argues that the original debt (the principal) has already been repaid many times over, so the continued existence of a debt burden is illegitimate.

* Debts which cannot be serviced without impoverishing a country’s people are illegitimate. This is more often termed "immoral debt". As Julius Nyerere said, "Must we starve our children to pay our debts?".

* All debt owed by the South to the North can be considered illegitimate. The argument here is ‘who owes what to whom?". Africa Action and Jubilee South maintain that the countries of the South are in fact creditors of an historical, social and ecological debt which Northern countries refuse to recognize.

One of the key reasons given here is debts incurred by

"dictatorships and repressive regimes"

of which there are many both from the past and present.     For example in Nigeria, though I do not know the exact figure of monies stolen by successive military and civilian regimes over the past 40 years I do know that it runs into billions of US$.   I also know that theft of public funds by members of  all levels of government and government employees continues today.   If Nigeria is then anything to go by, African leaders have stolen hundreds of billions of dollars. 

It is important that African people and others who are advocating cancelling the debt acknowledge the contribution of African leaders over the past 40 years to the continents debt. Ok some many of these dictators where supported by the West but nevertheless we need to accept that they should be held accountable.  I cannot accept that the corrupt leaders of Africa do not hold some responsbility for the debt crises, if for no other reason that they (African leaders) continue to steal and squander and we the people of Africa continue to suffer  from poverty, endless conflict and AIDS.  Today our leaders are all gathered together in Addis Ababa – talking the talk but not walking the walk and most of them still engaged in corruption and theft for their respective countries.   It is our leaders together with Western creditors who put African lives at risk.  They are both theives.     As long as we African people sit back and allow our corrupt, human rights violating leaders to continue so too will we continue to live the hallife of the oppressed.  We cannot even begin to deal with the West and globalisation when we cannot deal with our leaders. 

More on debt cancellation:  Common Dreams