UN Secretary-General António Guterres has been visiting Senegal, Niger and Nigeria since May 1, 2022. During these visits, he called for debt relief so that African governments can invest in social security and sustainable development. Jesuit economist Fr. Abel Béranger Ndjoumon spoke to Vatican News and urged African leaders to prioritize regional economic partnerships.
Stanislas Kambashi, SJSJ – Vatican City
An Ivorian economist and Jesuit priest, Father Abel Ndjoumon Jessasi is a staff member of the Jesuit Center for Research and Action for Peace (CERAP) in Côte d’Ivoire.
Appreciating the visit of the UN Secretary General to Africa, Fr. Ndjoumon said that the debt cancellation proposed by the UN Secretary General would undoubtedly be a good deal for African governments. However, the fundamental problem for many countries on the continent remains that of good governance.
“Indeed, for almost twenty years, issues of debt relief for African countries have been under discussion, and ways out of debt have been proposed by various experts,” Ndjoumon said. More importantly, he believes that African governments must first do some introspection and assessment of the decline of African economies.
The triple African crisis: food, energy and finance
In Dakar, the Secretary General of the United Nations evoked the triple crisis which threatens the African continent because of the conflict in Ukraine: food, energy and financial crisis.
Speaking in Dakar, the capital of West African country Senegal, on his first visit to the continent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Guterres said: “When discusses the socio-economic situation, it is impossible not to mention the war in Ukraine and its impact on Africa.The UN chief made the remarks after meeting with the country’s President, Macky Sall, who declared that the war in Ukraine was “a human tragedy” which can have “a dramatic impact on economies, especially those of developing countries”.
Conflict in Ukraine drives up global food and fuel prices; Senior UN officials fear rising costs could push more people to hunger and lead to political instability and social unrest in parts of Africa, where food prices have risen a third since last year.
Before the start of the Russian invasion in February, the combination of climate change, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic was already impacting the socio-economic situation in Africa, particularly in the Sahel region, which includes the Senegal.
Greater integration of economies
Father Ndjoumon recognizes the crises but also sees it as an opportunity for African countries. He believes that it is time for African governments to move towards greater integration of economies at regional and continental levels. He insists that Africa should not rely solely on international financial institutions, important as these institutions are for financing.
“This diversification of partnerships will help by opening up many opportunities for our economies. If states do not remain fragmented but can open their borders to the free movement of people, goods and services, this would unlock immense potential,” the Jesuit Economist said.
Consequences of ECOWAS Sanctions
Father Ndjoumon deplored the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. He said the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS would have repercussions on the target economies in the region. However, the effects would not be limited to countries in political transition. They would be felt even in countries that share borders and are in trade partnership with them. By restricting the movement of people, goods, services and financial means, the already vulnerable population would unfortunately continue to suffer the consequences, the pain and the deeds of the decisions made by their leaders.