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Doha Debates: Is it time to cancel Africa’s debts?

Doha Debates
Doha Debates

“Is it time to cancel the debts of low-income countries in the global south? It’s estimated that three out of five low-income countries are struggling to pay their debts.

In Africa, 21 countries are either bankrupt or in financial distress, and are on the hook to repay more than $70 billion in 2023 alone. Freeing up this money could help these countries get back on their feet and invest more at home—but it’s not without its drawbacks.

Heidi Chow, executive director of the UK-based nonprofit Debt Justice, says debt relief is needed. She argues that debt payments shouldn’t come before essential human needs, and that rather than tightening the screws on indebted countries, we should address the predatory lending practices that have pushed many global south countries to the brink of collapse.

Bright Simons, policy analyst at the Ghana-based Imani Center for Policy and Education, contends that blanket debt cancellation doesn’t benefit anybody, saying that some countries have successfully paid back their debts while others have spent recklessly. And, he argues, domestic lenders and private investors shouldn’t have to pay the price for governments’ poor financial decisions.

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