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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: Debt Cancellation Update

Africa: Debt Cancellation Update
Date distributed (ymd): 000424
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains two recent documents relating to African debt cancellation campaigns. The first relates to organizing for a meeting in Dakar projected for December 2000, initiated by several African and European networks. Additional groups interested are urged to get in touch with the Comite pour l'Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM) / Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt (COCAD) at (more contact information below). The second document is a summary report from a Jubilee 2000 Zambia workshop on apartheid-caused debt. For additional information see both the Jubilee 2000 web site cited below and the Alternative Information and Development Centre web site (

For additional links to documents and organizations working on debt, see

For a recent call from former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda for total debt cancellation, published in the New Statesman, see
"Africa has paid its dues many times," Kaunda notes.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Amsterdam APPEAL

For the Cancellation of African debt
Africa : From Resistance to Alternatives

For more information:
CADTM / COCAD, 29, Rue Plantin, B-1070 Bruxelles, Belgium.
Tel: 32-2-257-59-90; Fax: 32-2-522-61-27 e-mail:

For more background on the Dakar 2000 meeting, see in particular

The new slavery in Africa, which results from the burden of the debt and the enforcement of structural adjustment policies, is an unprecendented shame at the beginning of the 21st century. In an overwhemling majority of African countries servicing the debt drains more money that allocated to both education and health services. It should be obvious that each cent spent on paying for the cost of public debts is lost in the urgent fight against poverty, illiteracy, malaria, AIDS and other wide spread diseases, some of which could be easily cured. The structural ajustment policies imposed by the World Bank and the IMF have largely contributed to sink many African countries in a deep economic depression : they exacerbated social and gender inequality, they spread poverty on a large scale, they jeopardize the environment and access to food and water, they fuel armed conflicts and thus create conditions that are favourable to recolonizing the continent through pirvatization and liberalization policies.

Like all preceding gestures, the initiatives taken in Cologne (June 1999) and in Cairo (April 2000) do not offer any actual solution.

Considering this tragic predicament a wide-spread movement has organized on a global scale : we appeal for the cancellation of the Third World debt and for the suppression of adjustment policies that have only contribute to more poverty wherever they are enforced.

In most cases the debt was contracted by non democratic governments that were often supported by industrialized countries. The borrowed money was used to finance repressive when not genocidal policies (as in Rwanda in 1994) and never helped the people of the indebted countries. The embezzlement of public loans was systematically organized in full knowledge of public and private loaners in industrialized countries. In terms of international law the 'odious' debt that results from such loans is invalid.

In the specific case of subsaharan Africa an irrefutable historical argument in favour of unconditional cancellation is that what is owed to western 'loaners' is only a tiny portion of what European have stolen there since the 15th century. Slavery robbed the continent of 60 to 100 millions inhabitants to transport them to the Americas, colonization and current recolonization have drained it of its natural as well as human resources. Africa has already paid more than enough.

Today the World Bank, which is largely responsible for the disaster of the last thirty years, acknowledges that the standards for human development are plummetting in Africa. The actual income per inhabitant has steadily dropped over this period. In several African countries life expectancy (which hardly reached 46) is dramatically falling as a consequence of abject poverty. Yet the IMF and the WB still insist on imposing structural adjustments to pay for (or at least service) their debts through initiatives that claim to help Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC Initiative). The only change is on the level of discourse : we now hear of Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) instead of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP).

For these reasons an immediate and unconditional cancellation of Africa's foreign debts is no more than an ethical demand for social justice. It would free resources that are urgently needed for investments in production (which will provide jobs for younger generations), for health, education, culture, women's emancipation, for the eradication of poverty and the preservation of the environment and thus of biodiversity.

Africa must simultaneously put a stop to adjustment policies that are largely responsible for its current catastrophic situation. The stress on budget austerity in the name of an alleged "macroeconomic equilibrium" and wide-spread privatizations have led to a dramatic reduction of public expenditure, which in turn results in recession, unemployment and poverty.

Liberalization and privatisation policies have contributed to transnational corporations controling African economies. The libre echange creed has deprived Africa of food security. Cultural creation is subjected to a wild competition by cultural products from industrialized countries. Only if Africa puts a stop to such policies can it hope recover some autonomy in shaping its own development policies.

African people cannot be expected to be passive in front of the sacrifice of whole generations and of a new colonization that hides its true nature. African personalities and organizations are determined to rely on popular support to participate in a global mobilization which has found a new impetus with the "Jubilee 2000" campaign, mobilizing as it does millions of people throughout the world and collecting over 20 millions signatures that were presented to the G-7 leaders in Cologne in June 1999. But the "Jubilee 2000" campaign ends at the end of the year. It is thus urgent to take stock of what has been gained and to review the limits of the campaign in order to carry on the struggle for the cancellation of Africa's debt, the suppression of adjustment policies and the elaboration of policies aiming at sustainable human development.

The present appeal follows upon the declarations at Accra (Jubilee 2000 - April 1998), Lusaka (Jubilee 2000 - May 1999), Johannesburg (Jubilee South - November 1999) and Yaounde (January 2000), as well as of converging initiatives such as that of ATTAC (Paris - June 1999), the protest in Seattle, the Women's World March in 2000 and the Bangkok appeal (February 2000), all of them demanding the cancellation of the debt in Third World countries.

Gathered in Amsterdam on 4 to 7 April, we appeal for an international and panafrican meeting in Dakar on 12 to 17 December 2000 that will be called DAKAR 2000 : from Resistance to Alternatives. Its objectives will be:

  1. to assess Africa's debt at the end of the year 2000 after the jubilee campaign and to consider the impact of bilateral and multilateral solutions for the "lightening" of the debt;
  2. to review the economic, social and human effects of structural adjustment policies, focusing on key-sectors such as education, health, employment, income distribution, traditional farming ;
  3. to devise short-, medium- and long-term strategies in order to
  4. achieve the cancellation of the debt and the suppression of adjustment programs,
  5. contribute to the implementation of a development policy based on the needs of the people. This presupposes new forms of mobilization and new ways of distributing wealth as well as new financing methods such as the recovery of illicitly-acquired goods, a tax on international financial transactions, fair trade and fair taxation policies.

First signatories:

  • Association Internationale des Techniciens Experts et Chercheurs (AITEC - France)
  • Association pour le Commerce Equitable de Genève (ACEG - Suisse)
  • Alternative Information and Development Center (AIDC - South Africa)
  • Centre National de Cooperation au Developpement / National Center for Development and Cooperation (CNCD - Brussels),
  • Centre Europe - Tiers Monde (CETIM - Suisse)
  • Comite pour l'Annulation de la Dette du Tiers Monde (CADTM)/ Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt (COCAD),
  • Commission Tiers Monde de l'Eglise Catholique (COTMEC - SUISSE)
  • Conseil des Organisations Non Gouvernementales d'Appui au Developpement (CONGAD - Senegal),
  • Coalition Congolaise pour l'Annulation de la Dette et le Developpement (CCADD - DR Congo),
  • Confederation Paysanne (France)
  • Coalition Jubilee 2000 du Mali (CNM/J2000 - Mali)
  • Groupe Dette Tiers Monde - ATTAC Geneve Suisse
  • Federation des Associations de Solidarite avec les Travailleurs Immigres (FASTI - France)
  • Service de Renforcement des Appuis aux Communautes de Base en Afrique Centrale (Seracob - Burundi, Rwanda, RD Congo)
  • Trans National Institute (TNI - Pays-Bas)
  • Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes du Senegal (UNSAS - Senegal)

To get more information, please supply the following information and write to CADTM / COCAD, 29, Rue Plantin, B- 1070 Bruxelles, Belgium. Tel: 32-2-257-59-90; Fax: 32-2-522- 61-27; e-mail:


Postal Address:


Name of the "personne responsable":


For more information:
Jubilee 2000 Zambia Campaign, c/o JESUIT CENTRE FOR THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION, P.O. Box 37774, 10101 Lusaka, Zambia Tel: 260-1-290-410; Fax: 260-1-290-759; E-mail:;
Web Page:

Consisting of a working group of 25 people, this workshop was held on March 14, 2000. This one-day meeting focused on international, regional and national efforts in campaigning for the cancellation of debts accrued as a result of the apartheid system in South Africa.

Presenting the international scene, Mr Theo Kneifel from KASA, Ecumenical Agency for Advocacy Work on Southern Africa, Germany, gave a background to the apartheid caused-debt activities, the rationale and purpose. He explained that the debt is perceived as unpayable and illegitimate. It basically addresses the question of "who pays who?" Based on this question, the campaign declares that all loans to the apartheid regime and its agents are odious, loans given to the neighbouring states as assistance to resist Pretoria's destabilisation policy should be cancelled, apartheid linked loans that have already been repaid were paid from the suffering of the people and lastly, companies, governments and banks that did not heed to the international call for sanctions against South Africa sustained the apartheid regime and the profites accrued as a results are tainted and therefore, reparation payments should now be made to the people of Southern Africa.

Mr Theo informed the participants that international advocacy work has concentrated on urging Government and private multilateral company creditors to cancel such debts and make repayments. Mr Neville Gabriel of Jubilee 2000-South Africa presented a paper on the campaign about apartheid caused-debt at regional level. Recognising regional solidarity as the main thrust of the campaign at this level, Mr Gabriel stressed the importance of viewing the servicing of these debts from the moral aspect as it is done at the expense of poverty. He explained that Jubilee South perceived these debts from the moral, economic, political, historical and legal points. With this, Jubilee South supports a shift from the "Charity" approach which implies leniency for debt forgiveness to the "Justice" approach which demands fairness and cancellation of debts.

On activities at the regional level, Mr Gabriel informed the participants that efforts have focused on further research and consolidation of solidarity in calling for cancellation and demanding payment of reparations.

On behalf of Jubilee 2000-Zambia, Barbara Kalima and Charity Musamba presented some preliminary findings on "Apartheid Caused-Debt: The Case of Zambia". The findings indicated a high possibility of the Zambian Government spending hugely on anti-apartheid activities during the 1970s and 1980s. Recorded as the longest standing conflicting state of the apartheid system, Zambia was found to have spent large portions of funds, time and human resource in economic, defence, liberation movements and reconstruction activities. Events cited included the building of the Tanzania-Zambia railway line, INDENI oil Refinery, and the pipeline, the Great North Road, airlifting of copper exports, defence equipment, training and hosting of freedom fighters from throughout the southern African region.

A narrative paper on anti-apartheid activities in Zambia, presented by the last Minister of Finance and Economic Planning during the second Republic, Mr Rabbinson Chongo, classified the costs into four categories; namely, infrastructural cost of de-linkage, direct military cost, import and export costs and intangible costs.

In his presentation, Mr Chongo stressed the rationale for the stance taken by Zambia at that time. It being the only first independent state in southern African region, Zambia had to spearhead liberation efforts and opposed any system that perpetuated minority dominance. Dictatorial systems had been condemned internationally, and Zambia had been a signatory to such declarations.

He confirmed that Zambia had to incur a lot of costs for taking a decision. First, Zambia's relations with the rest of the states in the region were strained. Secondly, the Pretoria Government pursued as aggressive policy against Zambia, its opponent. Thirdly, Zambia had to borrow and misdirect national resources in order to meet the demands caused by apartheid pressures.

Encouraged by this presentation, the participants recommended a detailed, systematic and accurate account on apartheid caused-debt for Zambia. Ideas on consolidating regional networking were also discussed. Jubilee 2000-Zambia will commit itself to continue this research and advocacy.

Further information on the study shall be made available in due course and a report on this workshop will be available.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen international policy debates around African issues, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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