Africa: Obasanjo, Okonjo-Iweala Demand U.S.$44 Billion Debt Relief for Africa

10 April 2020

World leaders, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, have asked the G-20 countries for a $44 billion debt relief for African countries to tackle the COVID-19.

The duo joined over 100 world leaders in demanding "immediate internationally coordinated action-within the next few days-to address our deepening global health and economic crisis from COVID-19".

In a letter addressed to the G20 nations, the leaders said the 2008 to 2010 economic crisis is less complicated than the current pandemic seen across the world.

"In 2008-2010, the immediate economic crisis could be surmounted when the economic fault line--under-capitalisation of the global banking system--was tackled," the letter read.

"Now, however, the economic emergency will not be resolved until the health emergency is effectively addressed: the health emergency will not end simply by conquering the disease in one country alone, but by ensuring recovery from COVID-19 in all countries."

They also asked the international community to "waive this year's poorer countries' debt repayments, including $44 billion due from Africa, and consider future debt relief to allow poor countries the fiscal space to tackle the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"We ask the G20 to task the IMF and the World Bank to further assess the debt sustainability of affected countries."

The world leaders, including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, former prime ministers of the UK; Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi; Ban Ki Moon, former UN Secretary-General; Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese billionaire; George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations, all asked for an immediate release of $8 billion to battle the pandemic.

"World leaders must immediately agree to commit $8 billion-as set out by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board-to fill the most urgent gaps in the COVID-19 response," the said.

"This includes: $1 billion this year urgently needed by WHO: This would enable WHO to carry out its critically important mandate in full. While it has launched a public appeal-200,000 individuals and organisations have generously donated more than $100 million-it cannot be expected to depend on charitable donations.

"$3 billion for Vaccines: The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is coordinating the global research effort to develop and scale up effective COVID-19 vaccines. In addition Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will have an important role procuring and equitably distributing vaccines to the poorest countries and requires $7.4 billion for its replenishment: this should be fully funded.

"$2.25 billion for Therapeutics: The COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator aims to deliver 100 million treatments by the end of 2020 and is seeking these funds to rapidly develop and scale-up access to therapeutics."

They also asked the G20 for "a further $35 billion will be required, as highlighted by WHO, to support countries with weaker health systems."

The leaders, of whom are seven Nobel laureates, including Joseph Stiglitz and Malala Yousafzai, said the "aim should be to prevent a liquidity crisis turning into a solvency crisis, and a global recession becoming a global depression."

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