Oxfam reacts to President Magufuli’s call for debt relief. Urges international lenders to cancel the debt repayments in 2020.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Tanzania like many other African countries is facing the worst health and economic test in decades amidst declining tax revenues, diminishing official development assistance, and rising debt obligations and costs. The slump in commodity prices and disruption of global supply chains, especially in China, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, is already hitting African economies hardest.

Speaking on Wednesday via a televised briefing of top security officials, Tanzania’s President Dr. John Pombe Magufuli called upon international lenders to write off debts to African countries instead of giving loans to enable them to use savings to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. “Tanzania pays about Tsh700 billion (USD $302 million) to international lenders per month, out of which, between Tsh200 billion and Tsh330 billion goes to the World Bank alone,” the President said.

Reacting to the speech by President John Pombe Magufuli, Francis Shanty Odokorach, Oxfam in Tanzania Country Director, said:

“International lenders need to cancel all debt repayments in 2020 to allow countries like Tanzania to focus on strengthening their public health systems to adequately respond to the COVID-19 crisis and provide social protection to the most vulnerable. Suspending all debt payments is the fastest way to keep money in countries and free up resources to tackle the health and economic crises and cope with the global economic fallout that the IMF has said is the worst since the 1930s Great Depression.”

Odokorach continued: “Bilateral creditors, multilateral institutions or private lenders must not put countries in a situation where they have to choose between paying debts and putting their peoples lives at risk. The COVID-19 crisis is already collapsing health systems and threatening economies in the developed world, and countries are using unlimited monetary expansion, something never seen before, to address their own needs.”

Odokorach called for a collective approach in tackling the pandemic to lessen the burden on the economies while paying attention to protecting the most vulnerable groups including women, children, refugees, elderly and people living with disabilities. He said: “Oxfam’s new report ‘Dignity Not Destitution’ shows the economic crisis caused by coronavirus could push over half a billion people into poverty unless urgent and dramatic action is taken to bail out developing countries.” Odokorach is concerned that gender-based violence is likely to increase during crisis and called for decisive actions to protect women and girls. Odokorach urged citizens to continue to observe protective measures against the new coronavirus by following official public health guidance.

Notes to editors: 

To arrange for interviews, contact:
Bill Marwa
Communications Manager, Oxfam in Tanzania
Email: bmarwa@oxfam.org.uk
Mobile: +255689505141