African Bishops Call for Debt Relief and Aid to Address Multiple Crises

Statement Precedes G7, African Finance Ministers and IMF Washington Meetings

G7 and African finance leaders should work together to remove the heavy burdens of debts in Africa, Catholic bishops and other faith leaders from the region said in Accra, Ghana, at the end of a two-day meeting. Representing churches in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and South Africa, the dignitaries discussed the effects and responses to the pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war, food inflation and rising interest rates shocks in Africa.

“Less than three years after the biggest global recession in a century, the threat of recession looms again,” the bishops said. “Budget shortfalls and unpayable debts have reduced the room for our countries to take the actions needed to protect the most vulnerable and restore prosperity.”

On October 12th, G7 and African finance ministers will meet on the sidelines of the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC. Debt, aid and future solutions for debt crises will be on the agenda.

"Africa's religious leaders see the suffering of their people and are calling on world leaders to provide the debt relief and aid needed to fight high food costs and the shocks from the pandemic," shared Eric LeCompte the Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee USA works with faith leaders on pandemic and crisis response. "If we are to address global poverty, we need to address the debt and economic structures that are causing poverty around the world."

The African prelates recalled Popes John Paul II and Francis’ support for debt relief and asked for debt relief assessments to enshrine the principle that human development and climate investments come before debt payments.

“G7 countries, as key debt governing jurisdictions, should pass domestic legislations that prevent private creditor litigation from undermining international debt relief efforts,” added the bishops.

Under legislation currently before the New York State Assembly, private creditors would have to join international debt relief deals signed by public creditors. Jubilee USA supports the legislation, and is working with counterparts in key G7 jurisdictions to implement similar initiatives.

The faith leaders also highlighted the importance of the $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights – an emergency currency the IMF creates – released last year for pandemic crisis relief. They called on rich countries to transfer a significant portion of their share of SDRs to African countries.

“We want to highlight the enormous potential in [the] region of rechanneling through the African Development Bank,” faith leaders said.

The African Development Bank is one of the lenders seeking to fund new loans to its members with rich-country SDR contributions. The G20 committed to a global objective of $100 billion rich-country SDRs to countries in need.

Read the full African Catholic Bishops and religious leader statement here.