Speakers of some Africa’s Parliaments are appealing for debt forgiveness for the Continent.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and some of his colleagues pleaded that there is an urgent need to push for debt cancellation for the continent from multilateral and bilateral partners.
A statement issued in Abuja on Monday, August 17, by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, said that Gbajabiamila convened a virtual meeting of African Speakers of Parliaments seeking to establish the Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament (CoSAP).
The body, which he said would facilitate increased collaboration among Speakers, Heads of Parliament, and National Assemblies across Africa got a boost.
The African speakers will also seek to advance the African development agenda within; and outside the continent in conjunction with both the executive arms of government; as well as African regional institutions.
The virtual meeting had in attendance Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia,Mr Aaron Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana, Mr Justin Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya.
Others were Mr Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda and President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal.
According to Gbajabiamila, development across the continent has become stunted; due to the heavy burden of the debts.
He also said that the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) had compounded the issue for the continent, considering the socio-political and economic consequences of the disease.
“We all agreed that Africa’s debt burden had become an existential threat to our societies, our economies; and the future and we need to do something about this and treat it as a continent-wide priority.
“It is safe to say that the burden of debt servicing, vis-à-vis spending on education and health care; for example, is a threat to our continent’s stability and development, especially in the era of COVID-19.
“When we find ourselves having to make policy choices between paying debts or saving lives; we know something is not morally right.
“As democratically elected representatives of our people, we cannot be silent; we must speak up and we must act. And the time to act is now,” he said.
The speaker added that there was the need to reflect on the processes that led to Africa’s heavy indebtedness in the first place; and the role parliamentarians could play to address it.
Gbajabiamila also said that the speakers and heads of parliaments should reflect on the assurances; ones that they as parliamentarians could give their borrowers if their debts were cancelled; adding that the freed-up resources would be invested in social and economic development of citizens.
“If we want debt cancellation, we must be able to build the confidence of the borrowers; that the cancellation will indeed save lives and livelihoods across the continent; and we, as Speakers and Heads of our parliaments, will ensure that is indeed the case,” he said.