Kenya President Ruto decries ‘unfair’ debt policies

Kenya’s President William Ruto has decried what he termed as an “unfair” framework in the administration of the global financial system, saying the global West continues to disenfranchise Africans by imposing unjust debt repayment policies that are almost unmanageable.

Speaking at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi on Tuesday in a speech to delegates at the ongoing Africa Climate Summit, Ruto waded into the often-murky terrain of foreign debt to African nations, saying that a conversation on the punitive policies of the West and its institutions towards Africa “is not an unfair” debate.

His remarks were received with applause from the thousands, including African heads of states, who were gathered at the Tsavo amphitheatre on the second day of the Africa Climate Summit. Also in attendance were leaders from the global North, among them the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerr

Ruto appeared pained in his remarks, cutting his written speech for a few minutes to embark on a short anecdote about how Africa has been hurt by the unfair debt programmes of the West, and how climate change is exacerbating an already bad situation.

While Africa’s debt debate has become a touchy issue in recent years, it is becoming even louder in the wake of the debilitating effects of climate change.

Spend fortunes

African governments are routinely being forced to spend fortunes of small budgets to fund adaptation projects, and Ruto said the government had been forced to add an additional three million pupils to the national feeding programme, up from one million last year. The holes they burn in their treasuries are often plugged using expensive domestic and foreign borrowing, and African leaders have in recent years decried what they deem as exploitative policies by Western financiers.

“This is the continent with the highest investment potential,” said President Ruto, who went ahead to note that the high potential is hampered by “high interest rates for development capital.

“As a result, nine countries in Africa are already in debt distress, 13 are at high risk and 17 are at medium risk, and African continent is bearing the brunt of the global climate crisis because an unjust financial architecture views African nations as risky borrowers,” he added.

“How do we get Africa to pay five times more (than the rest)?” he wondered. “We are not asking to be favoured or treated differently; we just need a conversation.”

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