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African countries’ neutrality at the UN comes under fire- A neutral man during a war is an enemy.

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.

                                                                                                                                       Dante Alighieri

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

                                                                                                                                        Desmond Tutu

Armed neutrality makes it much easier to detect hypocrisy

                                                                                                                                        Criss Jami

At the UN General Assembly meeting held on March, 2nd 2022, 43% of African countries maintained neutrality (30% abstained while 13% were absent) in the resolution demanding that Russia end its invasion of Ukraine (an independent country) and calling for a cease-fire in a peaceful resolution. This has irked the west and the United Nations. The US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) expressed her displeasure to the African States that stood neutral. This implies that the west can withdraw support and aid from these countries.

The question is why are African countries sitting on the fence? As they say, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. Most of these nations receive aid and support from China and military hardware from Russia. China’s Belt and Road initiative was estimated at $47bn in 2020 and China is responsible for $192bn of African trade. Also, there were historical ties and liberation struggle for colonialism receiving support from the former Soviet Union lends support in the last century. In recent years, Russia has attempted to deepen its relationship with the region through trade and supply of defensive alliance and in some cases, deploys private military groups.

On the other hand, most of the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are more economically independent and less vulnerable.

In The New High-interest rate environment  –  Is Africa doomed (SSA)?

The global tightening of monetary policy by most advanced economies could be a ticking time bomb for the African region. If this stays on for a long time, the debt burden for the region increases. This is at a time when the region’s debt levels were already susceptible to distress and default. According to IMF, over 20 African countries are already at risk of high debt default, out of which 6 are already in debt distress (Congo-Brazzaville, Mozambique, São Tomé, and Príncipe, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. An additional 15 run a high risk of joining them (Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya).

In the evolving high-interest rate environment, African countries are now in an era of excruciating debt service burden. The average debt service to GDP for the region is estimated at 14.5%. The US Fed raised interest rates for the first time since Dec 2018 by 0.25%pa. Also, the Bank of England raised interest rates again to 0.75% per annum. What this means is an increase in debt service levels and an external debt burden for Africa. The EIU currently projects that SSA’s external debt will rise to $753.20bn from $720.10bn

The debt problem notwithstanding, Africa has done well in the entertainment industry, especially in music and movies. In addition, Britain has lifted all protocol restrictions to air travelers from Africa, which will aid international mobility.

As always, the FDC Afriscope is fully packed with an interesting discourse on economic, social, and political issues.