African Govts Must Find New Ways to Finance Devt, Says Report


• $600bn needed yearly to achieve SDGs in Africa
Abimbola Akosile

African governments have been urged to explore new revenue sources to finance their development, such as remittances and public–private partnerships, and clamp down on illicit financial flows.

The call was contained in a UNCTAD Economic Development in Africa Report (EDAR), which also warned that debt looks unsustainable in some countries in the continent.

According to the report, which is subtitled Debt Dynamics and Development Finance in Africa, at least $600 billion will be needed each year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa. This amount equates to roughly one third of countries’ gross national income. Official development aid and external debt are unlikely to cover those needs, the report disclosed.

The report which was presented to the Media at a launch organised by the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lagos, on behalf of UNCTAD was reviewed by Prof Akpan Ekpo of West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM) and co-presented by the Director, UNIC Lagos, Mr. Ronald Kayanja.

The UNCTAD Economic Development in Africa Report 2016 finds that Africa’s external debt ratios appear manageable, but African Governments must take action to prevent rapid debt growth from becoming a crisis, as experienced in the late 1980s and 1990s. “Borrowing can be an important part of improving the lives of African citizens,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi says. “But we must find a balance between the present and the future, because debt is dangerous when unsustainable.”

A decade or so of strong growth has provided many countries with the opportunity to access international financial markets. Between 2006 and 2009, the average African country saw its external debt stock grow 7.8 per cent per year, a figure that rose to 10 per cent per year in 2011–2013 to reach $443 billion or 22 per cent of gross national income by 2013.

Several African countries have also borrowed heavily on domestic markets, the report finds. It provides specific examples and analyses of domestic debt in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia. In some countries, domestic debt rose from an average 11 per cent of gross domestic product in 1995, to around 19 per cent at the end of 2013, almost doubling in two decades.

“Many African countries have begun the move away from a dependence on official development aid, looking to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals with new and innovative sources of finance,” Kituyi said.

The report argues that African countries should look for complementary sources of revenue, including remittances, which have been growing rapidly, reaching $63.8 billion to Africa in 2014. The report discusses how remittances and diaspora savings can contribute to public and development finance.

Together with the global community, Africa must also tackle illicit financial flows, which can be as high as $50 billion per year. Between 1970 and 2008, Africa lost an estimated $854 billion in illicit financial flows, roughly equal to all official development assistance received by the continent in that time, according to the report.

And while governments should be vigilant of the borrowing risks, public–private partnerships have also started to play a more prominent role in financing development, it added. In Africa, public–private partnerships are being used especially to finance infrastructure. Of the 52 countries considered during the period 1990–2014, Nigeria tops the list with $37.9 billion of investment, followed by Morocco and South Africa.