Africa 'Weighed Down by Debt'


By Patrick Wadula

Business Day (South Africa)
December 13, 1999

The aggregate debt payments made annually by African governments amount to four times what they spend on health care and education, says US Democratic Party leader Richard Gephardt. Addressing American Chamber of Commerce members in Johannesburg at the weekend - at the end of his 10-day visit to Nigeria, Zimbabwe and SA - Gephardt said that foreign debt weighed down African countries struggling to modernise their economies and their political systems.

"Clearly, these nations bear the ultimate responsibility for fighting corruption and establishing sound macro-economic programme. The US can help in this regard, but only if we fund our assistance programs adequately," Gephardt said. The US had to look at debt relief as a strong tool to promote democratic change on the continent, he said.

The International Monetary Fund's (IMF) debt relief programme for highlyindebted poor countries was a start in this direction. However, it was necessary to enact broader debt relief. "It is morally the right thing for the developed countries to do - and it is in our interest as well. The sooner Africa becomes fully integrated in the world's economy, the sooner we will all have the opportunity to exchange goods and services in a mutually beneficial market relationship," said Gephardt. The diversity and importance of issues at the forefront in Africa demanded that the US government increase its engagement with the region.

"We must serve as partners for progress in the next millennium, working with African countries to reach the tremendous economic and social potential that this continent is capable of." Gephardt also announced US assistance to fight HIV/AIDS in SA was being increased to $9m next year from $2m in 1999. Gephardt said he had requested US president Bill Clinton for a substantial increase for its effort in next year's budget.

"Because no matter what kind of progress we make on assistance, trade or democracy-building, it will all be lost if millions more in SA and throughout the region succumb to this insidious disease," he said.

Gephardt called on all countries to focus their efforts on the most effective ways to promote progress in both the civic and economic realms of individual nations. "At the same time we must engage in a region-wide, even global fight against a common enemy that threatens the future of all," he said.

More Information on Social and Economic Policy
More General Analysis on Debt Relief
More Information on Debt Relief
More Information on Health, Poverty and Development
More Information on Poverty and Development in Africa

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