Polluters owe Africa as much as Africa owes them; let’s debt-swap

Saturday November 19 2022
Climate change activists protesting

Climate change activists protesting. The world has been boxed into a perilous situation by reckless actions of rich industrial countries. PHOTO | FILE | AFP


The time for grandstanding is over. In fact, the time for buying time in matters climate is up. The world has been boxed into a perilous situation by reckless actions of rich industrial countries.

Now the planet could be on the way to becoming inhospitable for human beings. And, as if that is not bad enough, of the world’s eight billion people, the most innocent 1.4 billion are the worst affected by the consequences of the biggest polluters.

This situation was recognised years ago and, climate being a physical matter of science and not a matter of arguments, the big polluters admitted their culpability and committed to pay $100 billion per year, starting 2020 up to 2025, as their Nationally Determined Commitments.

The climate damage is likely to finish off Africans before the big polluters because of the continent’s low resilience. Africa is yet to develop the infrastructure and economic systems to withstand the shocks triggered by climate change.

And its capacity to transition to clean energy cannot develop because the climate shocks have worsened its economies. This is because the African economies are sinking deeper in debt every day.

Most indebted


In this region, Kenya, which is considered the biggest economy, is actually the most indebted. A growing number of Kenyans even believe that their national assets, their heritage like the port of Mombasa, have been mortgaged to money lenders.

The final outcome of this could be instability and reducing the viability of African states. Indeed, the reckless pollution by the rich countries (in)directly hastening the extinction of the African nations.

This matter is simple to resolve. Africa’s debt is about $700 billion. The climate dues owed by the polluters as committed by themselves will, as at 2025, stand at $600 billion. Since they have delayed to pay up, then at 20 percent annual interest it should come to the same amount.

In brief, the common sense solution should be to swap the two debts so they cancel out. Africa does not need the climate money to do anything else but fix the climate mess created by the polluters. Let the debts be swapped so that Africa gets out of the debt bondage it has been pushed into.

Debt swap

Hopefully, the United Nations is not going to plead incompetence to arrange the debt swap. There should be no shortage of expertise to perform the calculations to make the book conclusion of these debt things. But the African Union can help speed up the debt swap by stopping the African countries from servicing the debts immediately. That should help the convener of the UN Conference of Parties to conclude the swap before COP28.

The question of why Africa contracted the debts should not arise unless it is being asked by naïve children who have not read how these debts are conceived, initiated and executed. Even the children in their late teens should have heard enough to know that these debts are mostly meant to enrich the lenders and further impoverish the borrowers.

And, yes, they are initiated, aggressively sold and managed by the lenders. In fact, Africa should have no business returning to the COPs before the debt swap is effected.

Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:[email protected]