Uganda: Covid-19 And Africa’s Massive Debt Burden to China and the West

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Uganda's corrupt dictator Gen. Museveni. Rewarded by the IMF. Photo: Facebook. 

As Africa groans under extreme debt, most of our leaders are increasing their appetite for expensive long term loans from mainly China, the IMF and the World Bank.

We then resort to spending a substantial chunk of our budgets servicing debt —payments on the interest and principal—while health, technology, agriculture and education sectors suffer. During this Covid-19 pandemic, over an estimated 20 million jobs across our continent will be lost, yet we have debt to pay.

Bringing the conversation to Uganda under the 34-years misrule of despot Gen. Yoweri Museveni, our national debt currently stands at an estimated $13.55 billion, including the $491.5 million loan just approved by the IMF executive board on May 6, 2020.

Uganda owes $1.6 billion to China alone.This by default, jumps Uganda’s public debt above 50% of gross domestic product (gdp) making us a highly indebted country. Look at Uganda’s status quo and ask yourself a question “What has all this debt accomplished?” Every answer rotates around the cancer of corruption which makes this dead aid.

The debt burden is now coming to us the ordinary people. Uganda’s population stands at 45.7 million people meaning each citizen has a debt burden of $354. This is clear that our sovereign debt is unsustainable and the economy is crushing people before our eyes. It raises eyebrows when one thinks of the $491.5 million the IMF gave the dysfunctional government, just buckle up Ugandans for the worst as we keep shaking the tree.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and the rest of the countries on the continent have similar or worse scenarios. Experts project Africa’s economy shrinking by a record of 1.6% the lowest since 1970, with real per capita income falling by 3.9%. China holds a third of Africa’s sovereign debt. It’s our top lender and trading partner. It has smartly manipulated us, mainly African countries with long serving dictators like Uganda under Gen. Museveni, Cameroon under Paul Biya, Equatorial Guinea with Teodoro Nguema Mbasogo, and Republic of the Congo, under Sassou Nguesso.

The one thing China can’t sell to Africa’s leaders like dictator Museveni is democracy. At least the West plays lip service to prioritizing it. The Covid-19 crisis has affected 53 African countries; only one, Lesotho claims zero infection, which itself deserves verification.

China, Africa’s top trading partner and lender allegedly had a hand in the spread of the coronavirus. There was no transparency in terms of how the authorities worked to contain the coronavirus outbreak. China failed to contain the coronavirus from escaping Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus.

Now we see the IMF and World Bank announcing immediate relief measure to Africa raising many questions.

Why isn’t China announcing any relief measures for Africa its top trading partner? Why doesn’t Africa unite and put pressure on China for relief measures? Should Africa just look on as it’s being forced to service its China debt during this crisis? Where is the African Union? Why is it so silent?

Why can’t Africa unite and make China pay for the mess created on our continent with the extreme lockdowns of Covid-19 which have affected our economies, lives and liberties?

Africa can’t just give a pass to China. If China is unwilling to strike a deal to help the continent climb out of this crisis, Africa can agree on one position to suspend debt servicing.

We must hold China accountable too before it’s too late. The window of opportunity in Africa is reopening and that is why you now see African countries rushing to the IMF for expensive loans, not the usual Exim Bank of China.

Wake up African leaders, only a fool tests the water with two feet.

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