Seven African nations have come together to form the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments (CoSAP), calling for a complete cancellation of debts on the continent, as a prelude to creating a New Paradigm of global development. Spearheaded by the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speakers of the respective nations’ legislatures of Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa have vowed to lead “accountability” efforts in their respective nations in an effort to first clean up their own houses in advance of any action by creditors.
In statement released after their initial meeting, on Aug. 17, Gbajabiamila told his fellow MPs: “We all agree that Africa’s debt burden has become an existential threat to our societies, our economies and the future we leave to posterity, 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. And 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.”
Interviewed about the initiative by CGTN on Thursday, Nov. 12, Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament Aaron Oquaye said that “we need a new world economic order,” describing the impossibility of domestic development (specifically food production) under the free trade dogma. “No country ever, in this world, got economic independence by allowing [unrestrained free trade] competition,” Oquaye said. “There is always a need for self-protection and this is the process in which we want debts relieved, so that we can also start all of our [economies] in that process.”
Oquaye then put the efforts in the larger historical context: “It’s a matter of liberating us,” he said, “giving us a free and clean—a new slate, so that we can write our own story thereon…. We need a new paradigm, a new paradigm which cannot take place under a new depressed world arrangement economically. So, we believe that, if you talk about debt cancellation, then you are only cancelling one, so as to start another. But if you forgive, then the slate is clean for us to write a new story. This is the essence of the concept.” (Emphasis in original.)
According to the Aug. 17 statement, the group held a planning conference in September, and is planning a conference sometime in 2021.