In May, several African leaders gathered in Paris for the Africa Finance Summit a day after President Emmanuel Macron announced the cancellation of Sudan’s French debt of about $5 billion to support the country’s transitional leadership. They included Presidents Kagame of Rwanda, Buhari of Nigeria, N’guesso of the Republic of Congo, Tshisekedi of DRC, Sall of Senegal, and Ramaphosa of South Africa, among others.
In what has been referred to as “A New Deal with Africa,” the following outcomes from the summit included agreements to cooperate towards reallocating to African states foreign exchange tools from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that help finance imports to the sum of $100 billion by October, opening market access, encouraging technology transfers, and lifting barriers to intellectual property to encourage “massive” production and distribution of vaccines on the continent.
Early in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, several calls were made for relief of African debts worth three hundred and sixty-five billion dollars, which is approximately 2% of global debt. Although the Summit’s agreements are aimed at strengthening the economies of African states and enhancing resilience as the pandemic continues to ravage global economic progress, it would be prudent for African leaders to remember the obligations to prioritise healthcare and other human capital development investments, which would then help build strong and resilient healthcare and educational systems that are crucial for social and economic prosperity.
While there has been important attention placed on the need for African governments to increase their healthcare spending in tune with the agreements made at the Abuja Declaration of 2001, it is equally or one dares to say, even more important for national and sub-national governments to establish people-centred, transparent and accountable governance; fight corruption in order to plug leakages that ensure consistent inefficiencies and wastages; and support Africa’s youth towards innovation, leadership and sustainable economies.
The summit’s final declaration stated that “We cannot afford leaving the African economies behind,” and I would like to add that Albert Einstein stated that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The onus is on us Africans to divest the thinking that has brought us to regularly seeking debt relief, and work on developing domestic solutions to our problems.