Africa Needs to Unite in Proposing “integral human development policies”: Catholic Bishop

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Nigeria's Sokoto Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

The Catholic Bishop of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese has urged finance ministers in African countries to unanimously propose policies that seek to promote the development of African people for the common good of the continent.

In his message to the African finance ministers at their ongoing annual conference in Dakar, Senegal, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah urged the leaders to send a signal to the entire world that Africa is still committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) despite COVID-19 challenges.

“Our financial leaders should speak with a unified voice when it comes to proposing policies that can advance the integral human development of all peoples,” Bishop Kukah said in the message that was shared with ACI Africa on Tuesday, May 17.

The two-day ministerial segment of the 54th session of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (CoM2022) started on Monday, May 16.

The conference, which officially started last week, is jointly hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the government of Senegal under the theme, “Financing Africa’s Recovery''.


In his message to the finance ministers, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop reflected on the debt crises in Africa and said that there is need for a recovery plan that should be animated by African leaders.

“To create stable bases for a resilient recovery, African leaders should ask and engage in creating a new international financial and trade architecture that prevents future debt crises,” Bishop Kukah said.

The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese proposed four elements, which he said can be essential in handling the debt crisis in Africa if well implemented.

Highlighting the need for responsible lending and borrowing policies, the Bishop said African countries should commit to debt contract disclosure and authorization frameworks that make debt more transparent.

He explained, “Key creditor jurisdictions should commit to pass reforms that bar enforcement of claims unless they meet such standards.”

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Secondly, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop said that future debts should have creditors and debtors share the exposure of the debts due to the nature of the world, which he said is prone to shocks.

Thirdly, Bishop Kukah said that there is need for loans given to African countries to be made affordable and that such loans be invested in long term developments.

Lastly, he said that there need for African countries to invest more in trade for them to “sustain healthy debt levels”. He added that Africa’s current paltry share of world trade, which is at three percent, could rise if the right rules are applied.

Lauding the appointment of an African leader, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the helm of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Bishop Kukah said that the position is an opportunity to be utilized by African leaders to bring about change. He said that Ms. Ngozi will need political support from all members to initiate the change.

The Catholic Bishop who has been at the helm of Sokoto Diocese since his Episcopal Ordination in September 2011 said that the financial situation in Africa has made recovery from COVID-19 slow as far as vaccination is concerned.


He said, “While other parts of the world have seen fast recoveries, due to robust stimulus and vaccine support, Africa still features the lowest vaccination rates in the world, at 12 percent.”

The Nigerian Bishop said that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia raises more concerns to Africa countries, which are also experiencing slow recovery from COVID-19.

“Rising food, fuel and fertilizer prices will add to the more than 40 million people who fell into poverty, in a striking reversal of encouraging trends from the previous two decades,” Bishop Kukah said.

He explained in reference to the Ukraine situation, “The growing severity and frequency of climate shocks in the region will worsen food shortages and their impacts on the poorest.”

He added, “While Africa needs $1.3 trillion a year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, an amount that could rise to near $20 trillion a year due to population growth, its debts reached a staggering 70% of the economy in the first year of the pandemic.”

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Bishop Kukah said that the African Ministers need to prove that their countries are committed to the African 2063 Agenda and the SDGs. He said that it is possible “if there is a strong and rapid mobilization of external resources led by the international community.”

Speaking on the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the Nigerian Catholic Bishop said that rich countries, which hold more than $400 billion need to transfer the funds to the countries that are in need of the money.

“Last year the IMF created $650 billion in emergency currency SDRs for coronavirus response and recovery aid. African countries received $33 billion of such an amount, and countries are spending them on vaccine access, poverty-reducing and stimulus measures,” he said, adding that the money is not enough.

Bishop Kukah said that there is need for African finance officials to call for more money and that they need to come up with more channels to effect the transfer of the money.

He added in reference to the finance officials, “They can help by providing assurance that they will set participatory and transparent strategies for applying SDRs to sustainable and climate goals.”

“It is important that SDR transfers do not create new debt, and come without harmful conditions such as austerity reforms that worsen human development or access to essential services,” Bishop Kukah said in his address to the African finance ministers at their ongoing annual conference in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar.

He added, “In particular, the African Development Bank, with its proven experience driving agricultural development, can harness the power of SDRs to stop a catastrophic food crisis in the region.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.