Debt, China And Africa’s Development- Op-Ed

Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr.

By: James F. Kollie, Jr.

When I listened to the commentary by Dr. James Jonah on Nightline Africa last night (9/1/2019) (https://www.voanews.com/episode/nightline-africa-4001221), I began to think that if Africa is not careful, it might miss out on the opportunity to develop its infrastructure and move its people out of poverty. Even the richest countries in the world today are still taking debt and raising their debt ceilings to finance their development but then they frighten poor African countries with the “mantra” of the “debt trap.”

These western countries which are threatened by China’s move into Africa have found a way to scare the devil out of us that if we take Chinese loans, we will be falling into a debt trap. Well, even they are taking Chinese loans and developing their infrastructure and enhancing the growth and prosperity of their people. If the loans are good for them then why aren’t they good for us? I think we need the loans even more.

Can you imagine if we had not taken the loan from China and the Arab lenders to do our airport what would be its state today? The World Bank and IMF were pretty okay with the status of our airport. I am remember we had to fight with the IMF to ensure that the we got the US$50 million from China to do the airport terminal and we also had to take a strong position on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to take their money from pot so that we could do the airport runway. The conditions on the EIB money was causing too much delay.

For me, it is simple: lets borrow and build our economic infrastructure so that our people can live in decency and prosperity. We will handle the debt issues later. Everyone is borrowing, including those who are warning us about the debt trap.

The problem is not with Debt but rather with what the money is used for. And today I see most of the debt resources are used to finance infrastructure, directly. The monies are not given to governments; the monies are paid directly to contractors for works that are done.

Let’s not be afraid to borrow. No one is going to seize our country because we borrowed. In fact, the infrastructure will help to enhance growth and improve living standards. Why should our people suffer or die simply because we are scare to borrow?

If you ask me, I will say let’s work with China and other countries that are willing to borrow us to develop our country and stop allowing the other borrowers to scare us about debt trap. What is the worse that could happen if we borrow? What I do know for sure is that if we don’t borrow, we are heading nowhere, period.

That story that you should finance your development from domestic resources is a farce; don’t fall for it. Our domestic resource base can’t produce the income we need to build our countries unless we develop the infrastructure. We can’t develop the infrastructure unless we borrow. It is not complicated!

Author: JAMES F. KOLLIE

I am a Liberian professional with passion for pro poor economic development and grassroot political organizing. I have read public policy, corporate finance and accounting at various levels. I have worked in government, private sector and non-profit sector.

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