Why G-20 nations should consider $44bn debt relief for Africa– Obasanjo, Okonjo-Iweala

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and erstwhile Managing Director of the World Bank, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala have appealed to the the G-20 countries for a $44 billion debt relief for African countries to tackle the novel coronavirus.

Both leaders, in a letter signed by over 100 leaders and addressed the G-20 nations stated that the measure become imperative to enable the pandemic grapple with the outbreak of the novel disease which taken a huge toll on its economy.

Noting COVID-19 has dealt a huge blow on Africa’s economy more than the economic crisis witnessed in the continent between 2008 to 2010 put together, the leaders called for “immediate internationally coordinated action–within the next few days–to address our deepening global health and economic crisis from COVID-19”.

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The letter read: “In 2008-2010, the immediate economic crisis could be surmounted when the economic fault line—under-capitalization of the global banking system—was tackled.

“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.”

The leaders went to call on the international community: “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 letter continued: “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.

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“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 organizations 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.”

Highlights of the letter also include an appeal to the G20 for “a further $35 billion will be required, as highlighted by WHO, to support countries with weaker health systems”.

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