African countries face a higher risk of failing to repay huge amounts of foreign and domestic debt, which has ballooned to 443 billion U.S. dollars, or 22 percent of the yearly national earnings, given the falling prices of minerals and other commodity exports, a U.N. report says.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a new report published in Nairobi the African countries faced the risk of economic stagnation as a result of the huge debts.
Seven African countries – Ghana, Djibouti, Mauritania, Burundi, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Sao Tome and Principe – have been facing severe debt crisis while Sudan and Zimbabwe are currently on debt distress, unable to repay their foreign debts after the collapse of the international commodity markets.
The Economic Development in Africa Report 2016, released late on Thursday, found out Africa’s external debt ratios appeared manageable, but governments must act to prevent the debt from becoming a crisis such as those of the 1980s and the 1990s.
“Africa is not overstretched in the debt markets. It is the collapse of the world commodity markets which has left several countries vulnerable to economic shocks,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General.
UNCTAD said a decade of strong economic growth driven by the high prices for commodities such as coffee, tea, minerals such as diamonds, cocoa and oil and gas, saw African countries register strong economic growth and allowed more of those states to access the international debt markets.
Several African countries have borrowed heavily on their domestic markets, according to the report.
According to the report, studies of debt trends in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia, showed the debts rose from an average of 11 percent of the Gross Domestic Product to 19 percent in 2013.
The debt crisis facing some countries comes in the wake of revelations that some countries like Mozambique, borrowed 1.3 billion dollars in secret debt deals.
UNCTAD said the external borrowing by any country should be governed by transparency and accountability.
“We insist on transparency whenever the government is borrowing. This is a requirement by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,” Kituyi said.
UNCTAD estimates 600 billion dollars is required every year to finance the reduction of poverty initiatives set out under the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Africa alone.
While the amount required to fight poverty remains much higher, UNCTAD recommended the African countries should move away from dependence on foreign aid and begin to look for new sources of funding for their development needs under new and innovative sources of financing.
African countries received some 63.8 billion dollars from funds sent home by their citizens in the Diaspora, which the UN body says could serve as a new source of savings to fund development. Enditem
Source: Xinhua/News Ghana