The Bishops of Africa Plead Their Case Before the IMF

Source: FSSPX News

A SECAM assembly of bishops

The bishops of Africa took advantage of the recent Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group in order to sound the alarm on the state of debt in their countries and to call for a change in perspective for the richest countries on the African continent.

The Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are an opportunity to gather together participants from diverse backgrounds: leaders of the public sector (central banks, ministries of finance and development, parliamentarians) and the private sector (representatives of civil society organizations, experts from academic circles), around global economic issues.

The recent assembly for these meetings unfolded this year in Marrakech (Morocco) from October 9 to 15, 2023. It was a highly symbolic meeting since it was the first to be organized on the African continent for 50 years, so suffice it to say that the organizers were reminded that Africa was very much at the heart of their concerns.

Opposing Points of View

The Church in Africa seized this opportunity to refocus the discussions and try to debunk the misconceptions of a West which sees, in the difficult demographic transition and the lack of control over the birth rate, one of the principle causes of poverty and destabilization on the continent.

If around 600 million Africans live beneath the poverty line and 280 million suffer from hunger, it is first and foremost owing to “the obstacle of debt that prevents many countries from having the resources to invest in crisis response and protect their most vulnerable,” writes the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM).

The prelates refer to Pope John Paul II, who, in 1999, had established the link between debt and poverty; they insist that “the underlying message still holds true today.”

Some reflections were shared by the Catholic NGO Jubilee USA Network, which advocates for the reduction of the debt of developing countries. “African religious leaders are on the front lines of countries facing debt, climate and food crises,” said one of its directors, Aldo Caliari.

A Way to Resolve the Migrant Crisis?

As for the G24, so far, all requests for the cancellation of the debt of these vulnerable countries have reached deaf ears, while the IMF worries about a reduction in growth in countries in the sub-Saharan region in 2023.

But the criticisms persist, notably on the question of debt, which has little advanced: so, the request expressed by developing countries at the G24 to cancel the debt of the most vulnerable states remained unheeded.

Yet this would be, according to authorized reports, perhaps a means of resolving in large part the migrant question: greater economic stability would help population stability. But, as is almost always the case, political questions mingle with this correlation, making it much more difficult to resolve.

As a consolation prize, the African continent will obtain a third seat on the Executive Board of the IMF—a paltry result for the bishops who call, so far in vain, for “strengthening human development values” and warn of “new cycles of high indebtedness.”