African Catholic Bishops Urge IMF and World Bank to Support Systems that Build Inclusive Society

Africa Needs Debt Relief and Aid for Development Progress, Explain Religious Leaders

Wealthy countries should direct more of their emergency currency funds, or Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), to help African countries emerge from the crisis and resume development progress, said the body that represents Catholic Bishops from the region. In a statement “Financing Crisis Recovery with Hope for the most Vulnerable in Africa,” the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) addressed leaders attending the World Bank and IMF Spring meetings. Bishop Sithembele Siphuka, First Vice President of SECAM and Commission Chair, signed the statement.

“We call on G20 Finance Ministers and other world leaders . . . to put in place viable plans for Africa to emerge from the crisis with resilience and resume progress towards [global development and climate goals],” said the bishops.

The statement highlights that Africa is home to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor and the pandemic pushed 40 million more Africans into extreme poverty, lacking access to basic goods and services like health, education, food, water. The Ukraine war impacts on food and energy prices will add to their hardship.

“Religious leaders in Africa are calling for changes in the financial system that will benefit the most vulnerable,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of religious development group Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee USA Network partners with religious leaders on international economic and development policies. “The African bishops inspire decision makers to act in the face of rising poverty and debt in Africa.”

To support global pandemic recovery, the IMF last year created $650 billion SDRs.

“We welcome these resources which are fast, without conditions and add little or no debt, but are concerned that out of this amount, only $33 billion went to African countries,” the bishops shared.

The G20 committed to a target of $100 billion in wealthy countries’ SDR contributions to fund developing countries. The IMF Board last week approved a new fund that could use up to $45 billion SDR contributions to provide developing country low-cost loans.

The statement recommendations also addressed the debt crisis in the continent. Debt as a proportion of the economy in Africa rose from 60 to 70% in the first year of the pandemic.

“African countries did not have means to mobilize sufficient resources for responding to the pandemic, and had to make impossible choices between saving lives and jobs, or paying creditors,” the prelates stated. They called on world leaders to “coordinate efforts to bring together public and private creditors to create mechanisms to reduce the unbearable debt burdens many countries in our region continue to face.”

The faith leaders asked for measures to prevent future debt crises, promote transparency and provide sufficient aid.

Read full African Catholic Bishops' statement to World Bank/IMF Spring meetings here.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report here

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the creation of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) here.