Hon. Agho Oliver Champions African Elected Officials' Campaign for End to Debt Bleeding Africa

Hon Agho Oliver (m) presenting Africa's perspective 

The shrewdest merchant that ever lived on earth might have as well come from Muteff village in Fundong Subdivision of the Boyo Division of the North West Region of Cameroon. He was Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu alias 'Bo nyam anfalli', (which when loosely translated would mean the proprietor of emergency or distress dried meat). Being one of the few meat merchants  in the valley, Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu could slaughter, salt, cure, dehydrate  and store up as many strips of cow meat as possible in his barn at non-refrigerated shelf life temperatures. While other renowned butchers like Bobe Ngiangha of Njinaku and Bobe Philip Mbang of mainland Abuh would hurry to exhaust their stock, Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu would concentrate more on stick-stretching, seasoning and storing up all his meat.

He would wait until someone, faced with an emergency (be it an urgent traditional ritual referred from a soothsayer as a solution to the deteriorating health of a loved one, a traditional wedding whose date had been fast forwarded without the groom having secured the required quantity of meat, and/or an equally emergency cry-die), would come knocking. He would patiently and sympathetically listen to the person narrate all his woes and reasons for the urgent need of meat. He would then inquire to know whether he had checked out with the other butchers like Bobe Ngiangha and Bobe Philip Mbang, claiming that himself long exhausted his own stock of meat. He would take all the time to review the person's other alternative options to resolve the situation, including the possibility of going right down to Fundong and Bafmeng. He would even volunteer to assist in directing the person to his business friends and acquaintances out there.

Cross section of participants 

When the person in want insistently reminded him of the immediacy and urgency of the situation, he would then reluctantly ask the quantity of meat the person needed, not without reminding him that the few stretched pieces of meat in his keeping were already bought and reserved by another man who was equally pressed with an emergency in the coming week. He would admonish that if the person were ready to pay double the amount of money that such a quantity usually went for, he could take the risk out of sympathy for the person and the problem presented.  The moment that individual agreed to buy at that cut-throat price, Bobe Bakossi would suggest that if he needed a few more pieces he could still give out, though that would entail him taking off the next day to long distance communities like Bafmeng in search of replacements so the man who originally bought and reserved the meat wouldn't come to embarrass him. 

The World Bank, IMF and other International donor agencies have the same modus operandi like Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu alias Bo nyam anfalli, when they come contracting loans to developing countries and especially desperate African countries that are always cash trapped. Like Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu who always gave out the seasoned dry meat to those desperately in need on his own terms and conditions, international donor agencies and especially the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, IMF, have since their coming into existence, given out loans and grants to especially African countries, on their own terms and conditionalities, not on the terms of the borrowing countries. Worse still, and unlike 'Bo nyam anfalli' that would wait patiently until you were in a nasty situation and came crawling, the World Bank and other International donor agencies go the extra mile of constantly enticing cash trapped African governments to come borrow. 

Bobe Bakossi Kfusalu alias Bo nyam anfalli, once done with you, would allow you to go your way. The next time your paths crossed, he wouldn't even bother to find out how the occasion went. He would consider the fact that, since you didn't come back for more meat, it was signal enough the emergency was resolved. Not so for international donor agencies as the strings attached to their loans and grants are such that the umbilical cord never cuts. 

It is against this background that last July 6, 2024, African Parliamentarians and Local Government Elected Officials meeting in Yaounde under the Cameroon  National Debt Advocacy Conclave, and in the run up to the African Conference on Trade and Development (AfCoTD IV), in Maputo, called on African governments to urgently review the African debt and development mechanism with the view to completely stopping the hemorrhaging debt situation owing to the stringent terms and conditionalities from western donor agencies.

According to the draft advocacy document endorsed by all the Parliamentarians and Municipal magistrates who attended the Yaounde meeting, and whose adhesion and broad-based advocacy and implementation campaign across Africa is being championed by Hon. Agho Oliver, Cameroon's MP from the Bafut/Tubah Constituency, the conclave called on African governments to begin standing up to international donor agencies to make sure loan terms are not only fair but just. To ensure that this happens, all the elected officials present called on African governments to henceforth, and obligatorily include Parliamentarians, elected local government officials and above all, the civil society in all negotiation processes with international donor agencies.

While calling on African governments to 'make sure that debt contracting is hence a socio-economic development lever rather than an element of impoverishment of the State and the community', the conclave regretted the fact that reckless borrowing from international donor agencies has unfortunately made 'Africa to be trapped in a debt vicious circle which prevents the continent from finding its way out of macroeconomic planning short-termism; enhancing production and industrialization; increasing domestic resources mobilization ; as well as reinforcing African agency both inwardly and externally'. 

Genuinely worried over the fact that 'many African countries are under a huge threat of debt distress while others are already sinking in that difficult situation', African MPs and other elected officials wondered why 'despite debt relief programmes such as: the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI); the G20s Common Framework; the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights Reallocation', debt continues to be a serious issue for many African countries, particularly regarding the ever increasing debt servicing load fed by bilateral and private sector debt. 

Alarmed by what signatories to the document decried as a 'mismatch between the reasons for indebtedness and the real development needs of the African people (with numerous debt funded projects uncompleted and just too little (only 30%) of borrowed resources used for growth and the well-being of the grassroots); the African MPs and Mayors noted with dismay the paradoxical reality that vote holders in these same African countries are 'known to be repatriating the much-needed revenues to developed countries in the form of Illicit Financial Flows and through unfair trade of natural resources'. 

The unprecedented level of Illicit Financial Flows (IFF), they noted, 'hinders Domestic Resources Mobilization (DRM) in many Sub-Saharan African countries'. They supported their argument with startling statistics from UNCTAD which estimated in 2020 that $88.6 billion, equivalent to 3.7% of Africa’s GDP, leaves the Continent as illicit capital flight. This was above the $50 billion losses per annum estimated then by the Mbeki Report, indicating a rapid rise in the scale of IFF in Africa. 

In order to remedy this situation and find lasting solutions to the bleeding debt situation in Africa, stakeholders called on African Union members to make 'accountability of decision-makers to the people no longer optional but rather mandatory, so that the people are involved and informed about the use of the resources mobilized from donors on their behalf as well as the related impact assessment; ensure prior consultation with the peoples’ representatives (including Parliamentarians and Decentralized Local Authorities (DLA)), before incurring debts to finance projects, making sure that these projects are well matured as well as exhaustive audits at the end of the projects; design a debt policy in line with the African Borrowing Charter, proposed by the Civil Society under the leadership of AFRODAD, in order to achieve a profound change in governance systems combined with a revival of growth, as it is essential to remobilize around the debt situation, as well as improve on debt management capacities and transparency, through a better citizen involvement'.

Other far-reaching resolutions included the urgent need for African countries to remove 'borders between African countries so as to create a single zone like in the EU and to reorganize the African economic milieu to ensure free movement of goods and persons, so as to share and learn new methods of mobilizing resources for development and for reducing the debt burden, including the capitalization on the kind of monetary discipline enforced in the CFA Franc zone to make the first concrete step toward an African Common Currency, by bringing all monetary reserves from the French Treasury and elsewhere back to Africa and managing these here on the Continent in an institution that would help accelerate the operationalisation of the African Central Bank, and really boost the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)'.

Judging that the alarming mismanagement of even borrowed financial resources in Africa was more as a result of the acute lack of stringent and sustainable equitable development pillars, African Parliamentarians and Local Government Elected Officials proposed the complete restructuring of the educational curricula at all levels to include modules on: Accountability; Social Responsibility; Citizenship Participation in nation building (Patriotism); and so on, so as to pave the way for more effective engagement of the younger generation. Even here, Muteff Village stands out as a shining city upon the hill in matters of equitable and sustainable management of resources to a level that one would not have to go cap in hand like African governments to borrow at cut throat interest rates from international donor agencies. 

This is exemplified by a certain old man, Bobe Mala Nchimbong Dzii whose compound was situated on the slobes of Muteff hill and divided into two by a track that led up the hill to adjacent village communities like Yuwi, Aduk, Achain and Ajung. Every morning, Bobe Mala Nchimbong Dzii would sit at a vantage position in his courtyard and begin attending to every passerby with some left over food his wives had prepared for him before taking off for the farms. He made sure everyone who was passing by had a bite however little. Each time he served the food to a passerby, he would watch as the person pulled a piece from the loaf and dipped deep into the dish and scooped up the njama njama straight into his anxiously waiting mouth. 

As the passerby dipped the first, second and third time and was about negotiating a fourth dip, he would quietly come and collect the dish and get back to his seat before asking  whether you think if everyone else that passed by ate the way wanted to eat, you would  have still met any food remaining. He would remind you that his two wives were already advanced in age and so could not be preparing food every other time (and that you should not think food is just flowing like a river in his compound). He would go ahead to console you that he only wanted you to have some energy to enable you climb the hill with effortless ease and go and eat as you liked in your compound, while admonishing that 'if there's little, there should be little for everyone and that the day there shall be plenty, there shall be plenty for everyone'. That's the kind of rationale and rationing the young Hon. Agho Oliver and his campaign team wants from Africa and African leaders, going forward. In this way, Africa will have no need to go into hemorrhaging debts.

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Gwain Colbert 

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