Addis Ababa — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Saturday that African countries are being denied needed debt relief, noting that because of a lack of financial support, the African continent is facing a very difficult situation.
Speaking at a news conference held at African Union headquarters after the opening of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Guterres said in order to draw on the continent's potential, a series of challenges must first be overcome.
"A dysfunctional and unfair global financial system that denies many African countries the debt relief and concessional financing they need," he said. "Systems and structures, from health and education to social protections, job-creation and gender equality are starved of investment for lack of support."
Guterres mentioned the impact that debt has on the continent's economy in his remarks earlier in the day at the opening ceremony of the AU Summit. He emphasized that developing African countries are often left out when global investment lenders create their financial plans.
"African countries cannot invest in these critical areas and climb the development ladder with one had tied between their backs ... behind their backs."
Guterres pointed out that Africa is dramatically underrepresented at the United Nations Security Council and at Bretton Woods Institutions.
"We need a new debt architecture that provides debt relief and re-structuring to vulnerable countries, including middle-income countries, while providing immediate debt suspension and write-downs to countries in need," he said.
AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat made opening remarks to kick off the AU Summit and was followed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The opening ceremony included the handover of the AU chairmanship from Senegalese President Macky Sall to Comoros President Azali Assoumani.
The theme of this year's AU assembly is Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area.