Africa’s Debt Crisis “a ticking time bomb”, Jesuit Entity Warns, Urges “bold action”

The debt crisis that a number of African countries are facing is “a ticking time bomb”, officials the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network – Africa (JENA), a coalition of Jesuit NGOs working for justice and ecology in Africa, have warned. 

In a statement issued on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank April 10 to 16 Spring Meetings, the Executive Director for JENA urges the international community to take “bold action” to help address African debt crisis and foster sustainable development on the continent.

Africa’s debt crisis “is a ticking time bomb that undermines the prospects of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Fr. Charles Chilufya says in the statement shared with ACI Africa on Friday, April 14.

“JENA believes that the international community must take bold action to address the debt crisis in Africa and support sustainable development efforts. This includes debt relief, debt restructuring, and providing new and additional financial resources to support countries' sustainable development efforts,” Fr. Chilufya says.

He adds that JENA stands “in solidarity with the people of Africa and call(s) on the global community to work towards a just and sustainable future for all." 


According to the World Bank, public debt in Sub-Saharan Africa has tripled since 2010 with the number of nations at high risk of external debt distress or already in debt distress at 22, an increase from 20 in 2020. 

The North African nations of Tunisia and Egypt are also experiencing a debt crisis. 

In the statement shared with ACI Africa, Fr. Chilufya says the crisis is impeding the ability of African nations “to build human capital, infrastructure, and business capital for sustainable development, as they continue to pay billions of dollars in debt servicing, diverting scarce resources from essential services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure.” 

The official of the entity under the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) says that Africa’s debt crisis “deprives nations of the resources they need to meet their obligations to provide basic social services, tackle poverty, and promote sustainable development.”

He adds that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the debt situation, resulting in “a severe economic downturn that is disproportionately affecting African countries."

More in Africa

The Zambian-born Jesuit Priest says that tax evasions and capital flights (the outward flow of a nation’s capital due to negative monetary policies) are also robbing African nations of the resources they need to finance their own development. 

The debt crisis in Africa is not only a financial problem, but also a social justice issue, the Nairobi-based Catholic Priest who serves as the Executive Director and Board Chairman of the Africa Health and Economic Transformation Initiative (AHETI) that was launched at the beginning of this year says.

He continues, “It is immoral for African countries to continue paying billions of dollars in debt servicing, while their citizens lack access to basic services like healthcare and education.”

"We need a just and sustainable financial system that prioritizes the common good, not the mere accumulation of wealth,” the Jesuit Priest says, and calls on international institutions including the World Bank, the IMF and the G20 “to take meaningful steps to address the debt crisis facing African countries.”