Report on the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa

18 February by Broulaye Bagayoko


 Context

Galloping demographics, structural youth unemployment, the explosion of social networks that disrupt traditional paradigms, uncontrolled urbanization, chronic bad governance (the shameless and irresponsible manipulation of economic statistics by incompetent and corrupt ministers), and the absence of the kind of political and institutional creativity that would be able to take charge of rapid and global mutations, all those elements are currently triggering powerful dynamics throughout Africa that, unless there is a gigantic leap of solidarity, converge towards disastrous outcomes.

The African debt crisis has been accentuated by the global pandemic. While many developing countries were already facing a crisis before the pandemic, the nature of the debt in DCs is much more complex than it used to be, with new instruments that involve higher risks. An increasing share of public debt now consists of commercial bonds traded on international capital markets.

The share of the total public debt owed by Sub-Saharan African States to non-Paris Club Paris Club This group of lender States was founded in 1956 and specializes in dealing with non-payment by developing countries.

creditors more than doubled from 2007 to 2016, growing from 17 to 40%, while the share of bilateral debt owed to the Paris Club fell from 53% to 7%. This new orientation can be accounted for by the evolution of the Covid-19 context and other unexpected shocks that have highlighted the weaknesses of the international financial system and increased the vulnerability of DCs to illegitimate loans. This has buttressed the need for social movements to mobilize, get organized, and revive advocacy on debt and to influence policy makers at national and regional levels on prudent debt management and equitable investment in public services.

Actually the present report addresses the political, economic and health situation as well as popular mobilizations in Africa.

 Political situation in Africa

On 18 August 2020, the President of the Republic of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was arrested by the army after a popular uprising that charged the president with corruption and high treason.

Simultaneously France announced that it would not stop its military operations in Mali in spite of the coup that led to the resignation of President IBK. Since 2013, Paris and its allies of the G5 Sahel have been vainly trying to eradicate terrorist groups that further extend their influence in the area. Over the last months, France has been the target of massive demonstrations demanding the departure of its forces that are accused of ‘plundering’ the country’s resources instead of defending it. Those demonstrations have fed anti-French sentiments in the region and forced the French government to request the presidents of the G5 Sahel (including IBK) to confirm that they fully support the French military intervention.

After the 18 August 2020 coup, another Coup was carried out by the Transition Vice-President on 24 May 2021, accusing the Transition President, Bah N’Daw, and his Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane, of treason and of being under orders from France, which is much more part of the problem of the security crisis than the solution. France forcefully condemned this second coup and claimed that the Malian transition regime is illegal.

There followed another coup, this time in Chad, with the paradox of France praising the coup in Chad but condemning that of Mali whereas the scenarios are strikingly similar: a military officer who is barely forty grants himself full powers in the name of the country’s stability and the higher interest of the Nation. The son of the late dictator president Idriss Déby did not wait for anyone’s permission to declare himself president the day after his father’s death on 20 April, in violation of the constitution, and France remained silent.

The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have shown that they were indeed influenced by European powers when they took measures against Mali and not against Chad. The AU complied with the demands of France, which openly supported General Mahamat Déby and threatened to withdraw its troops in the Malian desert in case constitutional order was not restored. These contrasting responses highlight an embarrassing paradox and complete inconsistency on the part of the ‘international community,’ which in francophone Africa often means France. Even if the situations in Chad and Mali are not quite the same since Mali experienced a democratic period with several political parties whereas Chad has been under military rule for over thirty years, the threats from the AU against Mali are unfair. The Chadian constitution states that in the event of vacancy, power reverts to the President of the Assembly. We need strong institutions but with visionaries at their helm.

After months of popular marches, Sudanese people overthrew President Omar El-Béchir and placed him in military custody. The African Union soon requested that the generals pass power to the civilians, but its warnings were ignored. After demonstrators were massacred in Khartoum in June, the AU suspended Sudan. The ECOWAS still insists on more and more unrealistic demands. Its blindness runs the risk of it losing credibility in its own geographic space rather than creating difficulties for countries determined to use any possible means to restore their friends and fallen heads of states into power.

A few days after taking measures against Mali, French President Macron announced a redefinition of Operation Barkhane, which, even if it meets structural expectations in French home politics can hardly be interpreted as supporting the National Council for Malian Transition. Indeed on 25 September 2021, at the UN, Mali reproached France with “abandoning in mid-air” the fight against jihadists in the Sahel by taking this unilateral decision, even though there is a military defence agreement between the two countries. The Malian Prime Minister deplored a “lack of consultation” in the French decision to reorganize the “Barkhane” operation, while consultation should be the rule between privileged partners.

There was also a constitutional coup by president Ouattara in Côte d’Ivoire when he insisted on running for a third term while the Ivorian Constitution limits the number of terms a President can serve to two. Such violation of the Constitution could destabilize the country. While he had won the favour of the international community by announcing on 5 March 2020 that he would not run for a third term, he then announced on 7 August 2020 that he intended to run for a third term. Despite this constitutional provision that says that the President can only be re-elected once, on 14 September 2020, the Ivorian Constitutional Council absurdly validated the candidacy of Alassane Ouattara, and strangely enough, rejected those of two of his most serious competitors, former President Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.

Social movements have rejoiced at the resumption of the trial of the murder of Thomas Sankara and his comrades in Burkina Faso on 11 October 2021. On 18 March 2021, the international network Justice for Thomas Sankara, of which CADTM Africa is a member, demanded that France declassify archives as promised by the French president during a visit to the country’s capital city on 28 November 2017. This is a historic trial that had been expected by the national, African and international opinion for 34 years. Thomas Sankara, father of the Burkinabè revolution was assassinated in 1987 along with twelve of his companions in a coup that brought his brother in arms Blaise Compaoré to power. The Burkinabè court proceeded with the indictment of fourteen people including the deposed president Blaise Compaoré, who has been living in exile in Côte d’Ivoire since his fall in 2014. His lawyers have informed that he will be absent from the trial. The accused are facing charges of “crimes of attack on state security, assassination, forgery of public documents, concealment of corpses, etc... or complicity in these offences”. Compaoré’s lawyers wrote of a ’political trial’ before a ’court of exception’. They also added that their client enjoys “immunity as a former head of state”. Thomas Sankara’s widow called for the trial to be broadcast on national television. A petition was circulated to this effect, which the CADTM Africa signed.

 Lockdown periods in Africa

Lockdown periods meant chaos for the people, especially the closure of restaurants, bars, discos, urban and rural transports, etc. The prohibitionof some activities had a very negative impact on incomes (small businesses carried out mostly by women), which made it impossible for heads of household to properly feed their families. The accumulation of rental arrears and the increase in indebtedness among clients of microfinance institutions (mostly women) was also damaging. This is why we are witnessing court rulings to terminate leases and the imprisonment of microcredit clients. Lockdown and the prohibiting of certain lucrative activities meant closed markets and therefore no revenue to pay the rent and ensure the repayment of debt. There is also the issue of unpaid taxes, as no government action has been taken to alleviate taxation, suspend debt repayment and ban evictions in rented accommodation. Even before the onset of Covid-19 Ministers of Justice would issue bans on evictions during the winter months every year, but people were surprised that no such order was issued during this health crisis.

We also recorded a very low agricultural production since intrans, resources and means of production were not available because of lockdown and the major part of the financial resources of the State and of local entities was devoted to emergency measures. This low production level increased the food deficit and the price of foodstuffs, notably staples. The only measure taken by the Malian government was the payment of a social bracket of water and electricity bills for four months, as well as the distribution of bags of rice to the poorest people. What do we call a social bracket? In terms of water billing it amounts to 1 to 10 cubic meters and to 1 to 100 kilowatts on electricity bills. If you do not use more than that in a month, you only pay CFA francs 100 per cubic meter or per kilowatt; beyond this you are billed CFA francs 300 per cubic meter or kw. The Malian government had officially announced that water and electricity bills would be cancelled for four months, which means that people did not restrain their consumption over those four months. Consequently there were water and electricity cut-offs because of unpaid bills since financial resources were all the more insufficient as they had been hit by the health crisis. The poorest people were also discriminated against in food distribution: the bitter fact is that food had been distributed to the wealthy rather than to the poor.

People were locked down without any support measure in a heat that can reach 40°C while 40% of the African population has no access to electricity and those who do can only enjoy it sporadically. Such predicament resulted in popular uprisings in the streets of cities in Senegal and Mali. Police stations and other public buildings were ransacked by youth. The government’s response was to put an end to the lockdown in Mali and to grant benefits to young people and women in Senegal.

When CoViD-19 first appeared, mining companies took the following measures: wearing face masks and implementing barrier measures. Workers who were away from the mine sites were put on technical leave, others were on rest and others were on annual leave and only received half their basic salary without bonuses.

Later, there were dissentions between the mining companies and workers over working hours: they had been reduced from 10 to 8, and they could no longer benefit from overtime. Some bonuses such as performance bonus and milk bonus were cut because there was a crisis, wages were no longer paid on time, workers who came from outside the mining sites no longer had access to their families for months without any compensation from the companies. It was a terrible ordeal. For a while there was a rumour that workers on technical leave after three months away from the mine would be fired. There was no agreement between workers and employers. There have been strikes to demand that dismissed workers be re-employed and that all bonuses be paid as usual. Yet after a number of strikes a wage reduction was applied to all. So far no system works to protect workers and more and more of them are quitting.

To remedy effects of climate change and the deterioration of the of the environment in the various mine sites, communities have set up self-organized systems which consists of creating watch groups that try to prevent chemical matters from being poured into the river and streams or into the woods. Those groups thus support the technical services of the Malian government in charge of enforcing environmental standards. During lockdown periods, members of the community watch committees have not been able to play their part in the protection of the environment and mining companies jumped on the occasion to transgress the environment protection rules. This state of affairs has aggravated water-borne diseases and other forms of illnesses of which the populations are victims, some of whom do not have the financial means to access health care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. , and in addition, the technical facilities of the health centres are ill equipped to receive the patients.

On the one hand, in response to the coronavirus crisis mining companies contributed $2,759,000 either in cash or in equipment. On the other hand, they received repayment of VAT credits for an amount of CFA 87 billion, including what was provided by the 2020 rectifying finance law. So at the end of the day they had not really paid more than they received.

During the 7th ordinary session of the Heads of States Conference of the G5 Sahel held at N’Djamena (Chad) on 15 February 2021, chaired by H.E. Mohamed Ould CHEIKH EL GHAZOUANI, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Chairman of the G5 Sahel, the Heads of States discussed the issue of the debt of countries of the G5 Sahel in a context of uncertainty related to the evolution of the health crisis with its disastrous consequences in economic, social, fiscal and health care terms. They recalled the Statement on the CoViD-19 pandemic made at Nouakchott on 27 April 2020 just months after the beginning of the health crisis, which called for a complete cancellation of the debt of countries of the G5 Sahel.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD UNCTAD
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
This was established in 1964, after pressure from the developing countries, to offset the GATT effects.

) proposed a USD 2,500 billion scheme to support countries of the South, including 1,000 billion debt cancellation. To achieve this, the UNCTAD called for the creation of an independent international mechanism, so highlighting the illegitimacy of the Paris Club.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, on 19 March 2020, African Finance ministers demanded an exoneration of payment of interests on sovereign debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government. and bonds. Figures are dizzying: African Finance Ministers and the African Union demand an immediate debt relief of $44 billion and the constitution of an additional fund of $50 billion in provision of additional interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. resulting from the delayed payments on the part of the African debt that has not been cancelled.

Emmanuel Macron misleadingly announced a massive cancellation of African debt. What was in fact granted was a moratorium, the CADTM network published several press releases to expose the deceit and demand a cancellation of the debts of African countries for them to be able to face the Covid-19 pandemic and recover from its consequences. It also gave interviews in several media on the G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). moratorium: Deutsche Welle, the German international radio, the Afrique francophone service; AJ+ Français (Group Aljazeera Media Network); Radio France Internationale and Idriss Linge of the Ecofin Agency.

Joint appeals with CADTM France and Womin for a complete and unconditional cancellation of the African debt were sent to the African Union, to African heads of state and to international financial institutions. The appeal was translated into four languages: French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. It was signed by over 300 organizations that are members of the CADTM and of WOMIN. A strategy of advocacy was developed by CADTM Africa and Womin around this appeal. A press conference on the G20 moratorium was held on the theme “Making a Mountain out of a Molehill”. The CADTM Africa and International networks are involved in the Initiative for the Abolition of African Debt launched in Senegal by social movements in the wake of the Call by the President of the Republic of Senegal to cancel African debt.

At the request of the Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, the CADTM Africa wrote an article on colonial debt and compensations. CADTM Africa was later invited by the International Friends of the Earth Federation to give a webinar on colonial debt and compensations.

We also took part in the 8th Pan-African conference (PAC) on illicit financial flows (IFF) organized by Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) on the topic of using national resources in the extraction industry to transform Africa. This conference is an annual event that brings together major stakeholders involved in trying to reduce IFFs and to improve the mobilization of national resources in Africa.

Presented by Broulaye Bagayoko
Permanent Secretariat of the CADTM Africa Network




Broulaye Bagayoko

membre de la Coalition des Alternatives Africaines Dette et Développement (CAD-Mali) et Secrétaire Permanent du CADTM Afrique (Comité pour l’Abolition des Dettes Illégitimes) Tél : 65 88 11 53/74 90 73 95 e-mail : secretariatcadtmafrique at gmail.com

Other articles in English by Broulaye Bagayoko (1)

  • World situation report

    22 June 2021, by Eric Toussaint , CADTM International , Sushovan Dhar , Maria Elena Saludas , Omar Aziki , Broulaye Bagayoko , Fatima Zahra El Beghiti

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