Jesuit economist urges African governments to prioritise integration of regional economies.
Stanislas Kambashi, SJSJ – Vatican City
Ivorian economist and Jesuit priest Father Abel Ndjoumon Jessasi is a staff member at the Jesuit Centre for Research and Action for Peace (CERAP) in Côte d’Ivoire.
Appreciating the UN Secretary General’s visit to Africa, Fr Ndjoumon said the debt forgiveness proposed by the UN Secretary-General would undoubtedly be a good deal for African governments. However, the fundamental problem for many countries on the continent remains that of good governance.
“In fact, for nearly twenty years, debt relief issues for African countries have been in discussion, and ways out of the indebtedness have been proposed by various experts, “said Ndjoumon. More importantly, he thinks African governments need to first do some introspection and assessment on the decline of African economies.
Africa’s triple crises: Food, energy and finance
In Dakar, the Secretary-General of the United Nations spoke about the triple crises that threaten the African continent due to the conflict in Ukraine: Food, energy and financial crises.
Speaking in Dakar, the capital of the West African country, Senegal, on his first visit to the continent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Guterres said, “when discussing the socio-economic situation, it is impossible not to mention the war in Ukraine and its impact on Africa.” The UN chief made the remarks after meeting the country’s President Macky Sall, who said that the war in Ukraine was “a human tragedy” that can have “a dramatic impact on economies, particularly those of developing countries.”
The conflict in Ukraine is driving up global food and fuel prices; senior UN officials are concerned that rising costs will push more people into hunger and could lead to political instability and social unrest in some parts of Africa, where food prices have increased by a third since last year.
Before the Russian invasion began in February, the combination of climate change, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic was already impacting the socio-economic situation in Africa, especially in the Sahel region, which includes Senegal.
Greater integration of economies
Father Ndjoumon acknowledges the crises but also sees an opportunity for African countries. He believes that it is time for African governments to move toward greater integration of economies at the regional and continental levels. He insists that Africa should not rely solely on international financial institutions, important as these institutions may be for financing.
“This diversification of partnerships will help by opening up many opportunities for our economies. If states do not remain fragmented but can open their borders to the free movement of people, goods and services, this would unlock immense potential,” said the Jesuit economist.
Consequences of ECOWAS sanctions
Father Ndjoumon lamented sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. He said the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS would have repercussions on the region’s target economies. Nevertheless, the effects would not only be confined to countries in political transitions. They would be felt even in countries that share borders and are in business partnerships with them. By restricting the movement of people, goods, services, and financial means, the already vulnerable population would, unfortunately, continue to suffer the consequences, pain, and actions of decisions made by their leaders.