Africa, the second largest continent of the world, abounds in all those resources that man considers precious- vast stretches of green, fertile land, abundant pure water resources, diamonds, gold, uranium and even oil. Then why are the people of Africa still starving? Why the economies of so many of its countries in shambles, and some have even been declared failed states? Why a dozen eggs in Zimbabwe cost over a million Zimbabwean Dollars? There is no right answer to these questions, but it’s a universally accepted fact that debt burden is the foremost of all African problems.
Legacies of colonial exploitation, African economies are in an advanced stage of decay today. The governments which took over after freedom from colonial rule proved to be worse than their predecessors, as they lacked sound knowledge of economics and revenue generating capability. Numerous military coups and political upsets later Africa today is grappling to be saved.
The international community, more specifically the rich nations of the world, extended its hand towards Africa in the form of financial assistance, but the effect was opposite of what was perceived. It was a classic case of not teaching man how to fish. African governments became so dependent on foreign aid that they forgot to install efficient revenue generating mechanisms in their own systems. Crumbling under the burden of debt repayment, today African nations are struggling to provide for their common man. These debts must be canceled because they prevent Africa from investing in education, eradicating poverty and successfully combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other devastating diseases. The All-Africa Conference of Churches has called this debt “a new form of slavery, as vicious as the slave trade“.
Acting on this belief, millions of dollars worth debts have been waived off but the poverty is still so abject and deep rooted that the task of salvaging African economies looks impossible. Nurkse said, “A country is poor because it is poor”, which is definitive as far as most African nations are concerned. Trapped in the vicious cycle and rife with communal violence, achieving economic sustainability seems impossible.
In such circumstances rich nations should play a more proactive role in African countries, as their requirements for oil and gas can be fulfilled by Africa. They must make efforts towards restoring peace and economic soundness in at least those countries which are their trade partners. 100% cancellation of Africa’s debt is needed if the world really wants Africa to develop.