African religious leaders call for international debt relief to deal with climate, health, food and energy crises facing the continent. The following press release was published by Jubilee USA Network on Aug. 8. 2023. The following article was published in the September-October 2023 issue of NewsNotes.
Twenty-six religious leaders from 12 countries in Africa met in Nairobi in August to discuss their concerns for the upcoming G20 and African Climate summits in September. The leaders represent Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and other Christian denominations, the All Africa Council of Churches, Muslim, and Indigenous faiths.
The group issued a joint statement, calling for debt relief and changes to the financial system to address growing crises of climate, health, food and energy in Africa. Caritas Africa and the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa hosted the meeting.
African countries owe collectively more than $1.1 trillion in debt and 25 of them face debt crises, according to the IMF and World Bank.
“In the late 1990s ... our faith communities were among those gathered in the Jubilee movement to advocate for breaking the chains of debt in developing countries,” the religious leaders said. “As we approach a new Jubilee year in 2025, that promise remains unfulfilled.”
The 1990s advocacy culminated with the largest debt relief initiatives to date. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries/ Multilateral Debt Relief Initiatives released $130 billion in exchange for borrowers implementing participatory poverty reduction policies and economic reforms.
“The stakes of this debt crisis are much higher,” the statement reads. “We need large investments to save the planet that sustains life in Africa and elsewhere, during a window that is rapidly closing.”
The leaders stated that the low use of the G20’s debt relief initiative, in spite of the high number of countries in crisis, is a sign of ineffectiveness. Their document emphasizes the need to address private creditors that hold more than 45 percent of African debt.
“[M]ajor financial centers that govern their contracts have a special responsibility to pass laws that bind them to share in debt relief,” the interfaith statement adds.
They expressed support for the New York and International Debt Crises Protection Act. The bill, currently pending in the New York State Legislature would ensure that private creditors join debt relief initiatives. The bill is supported by almost a quarter of New York State lawmakers.
The leaders also addressed current needs for more development bank resources.
“African countries will need scaled up access to concessional and low-cost, long-term finance,” they said. “Multilateral development banks are the institutions most capable of deploying such type of funding, but cannot currently keep up with demand.”
In July, G20 finance ministers reviewed a report that makes the case for an additional $500 billion in external public finance to help developing countries meet climate and development goals. Multilateral development banks would have to increase annual grants and loans by $260 billion in order to meet the additional needs.
“Our convergence is... a robust testament to the cohesive strength of interfaith unity, combined wisdom, and a shared commitment to justice,” added the leaders.
Faith in action:
Read the full Nairobi African religious leaders statement here. https://mogc.info/AfricaDebt
Photo of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya by Nimara via Flickr