More African leaders are joining voices asking international lenders and world's biggest economies for debt cancellations for the continent as it struggles to fight thee novel coronavirus pandemic.
African Union Special Envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga says richer countries and global lenders should consider writing off debts to poor African countries.
“African Countries have huge debts and with the affected world economy, there is need for write-offs or review of the debt rates to ensure their survival post coronavirus,” Mr Odinga told South Africa’s broadcaster SABC on Wednesday.
Odinga joins calls by leaders from Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Senegal who have recently called for either suspension or cancellation of debts owed by Africa.
Mr Odinga, prime minister of Kenya between 2008 and 2012, argues that the coronavirus scourge has ravaged global economies adding that it will also be difficult for largest economies to come to Africa’s aid post-corona as they too will be facing the huge challenge of resuscitating their economies.
“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to think out of the box. This is the time to realise Kwame Nkrumah’s call for the continent–Africa must unite,” said Mr Odinga.
“We have nothing to lose but our chains. Nkrumah called for it many years ago. He was like a dreamer but now it has been proved to be right time that Africa will only develop if it is united.”
“We need to strengthen our regional blocs and come up with a real unity at the continental level. We can have Ministers in Africa in charge of health, agriculture – food production which is a challenge here, infrastructure, trade, ICT among others so that decisions are not just made is Addis Ababa [Ethiopia] and left there to rot until the following year’s summit,” Odinga said.
Africa as at Friday had reported about 52,000 cases of Covid-19 and over 2,000 deaths, according to a report by the Africa CDC.
While it is the region with the fewest cases so far, it is the most indebted developing continent, now owing about $350 billion to external lenders.
With a GDP of $2.58 trillion, according to the World Bank, the continent which is a net importer of goods could be in further turmoil should the pandemic continue.
“Africa’s internal trade is only 15 percent meaning that 85 percent of our trade is with the external world…that kind of opportunity is now not going to exist because most of those economies are also affected. We now need to look internally – on the intra-African trade,” added the former Kenyan premier.