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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 22nd October 2020

IMF calls for Africa cash

Blue Lines

The International Monetary Fund reckons the Covid-19 pandemic will result in sub-Saharan African economies contracting by 3% this year and bouncing back by a similar amount in 2021. Over half of low-income countries are either in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress, according to the Fund.

Yet despite these dismal forecasts and a growing consensus that a handful of African sovereigns are likely to default over the next year, the autumn meetings of the IMF and World Bank, seven months into the pandemic, covered little more than the lowest hanging fruit. A six-month extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative – which Kenya and several other African states have opted out of because it could hurt their creditworthiness – and a commitment to publish a 'Common Framework for Debt Treatments' in November, setting out debt restructuring proposals on a country-by-country basis, represents more thin gruel. Little progress has been made on private sector debt restructuring.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says emerging markets will need $2.5 trillion of assistance. Yet the Fund had, by the end of July, only dispersed $90 billion in loans and currency swaps, and is unable to get its board to sign off on new Special Drawing Rights.

'You can't squeeze water out of a stone,' says economist Joseph Stiglitz, who argues that without debt restructuring and increased fiscal assistance, many countries will not recover. For the moment, however, little more is on offer.