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African Leaders and Finance Experts Call for Debt Repayment Pause to Combat Climate Extremes

In a joint effort to address the pressing climate crisis in Africa, Kenyan President William Ruto, African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairman of the African Union Commission, and Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of The Rotterdam-based Global Center on Adaptation, have penned an opinion piece in The New York Times. 

The article, titled “If You Want Our Countries to Address Climate Change, First Pause Our Debts,” highlights the urgent need for a 10 to 20-year grace period for interest payments on foreign debt to enable African nations to focus on climate resilience projects.

Africa faces a daunting challenge as 23 out of the 52 low- and middle-income nations at risk of or experiencing debt defaults are located on the continent. 

Debt servicing costs in Africa are projected to rise to $62 billion this year, a 35 percent increase from the previous year, significantly surpassing the $50 billion estimated requirement for climate resilience investments recommended by the Global Center on Adaptation.

They emphasize that while Western countries call for ambitious climate resilience projects in Africa, the debt burden hinders progress on these crucial initiatives. 

They argue that Africa’s debt payments should be temporarily suspended to allow the continent to prepare for increasing climate extremes.

In addition to the debt repayment pause, the leaders propose innovative financing methods, including debt-for-nature swaps, in which a portion of a nation’s foreign debt is forgiven in exchange for investments in environmental conservation. 

They urge international financial institutions to recognize climate change as a new threat to economic stability and adjust their lending policies accordingly.

The leaders and experts also advocate for automatic suspension of debt repayments when climate disasters strike, acknowledging that Africa is already making efforts to adapt to climate change, despite not being its primary contributor.

They further stress the importance of making global finance responsive to Africa’s climate needs, emphasizing that Africa’s success in addressing climate challenges will benefit the entire world. 

The leaders call for discussions on these measures during the annual gatherings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Marrakesh, Morocco, as they warn that time is running out to take decisive action.

This story has been adopted from the Kenyan News Update.

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