«Over the next three years, the public debt of African countries will exceed 950 million dollars, which is why we are proposing Release G20 , which is based on the restructuring and therefore the conversion of part of this debt into investments in local currency aimed at the Sustainable Development Goals. And we hope this part is as big as possible.”
Roberto Ridolfi , President of LINK 2007.
The Release G20 proposal was welcomed with enthusiasm by the participants in the high-level webinar held yesterday, June 23, and organized by LINK 2007 and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, arousing particular interest in the potential first beneficiaries of the proposal: the representatives of African countries. The webinar, which lasted over two hours, saw the participation of over 150 people, including prominent institutional representatives, members of the African diplomatic corps in Italy, civil society and the diasporas.
Release G20 met with the approval of Deputy Minister Marina Sereni , who chaired the conference, who explained that “Italy has an ambitious project, with a particular focus on African countries”: this is why our country takes “the challenge to cancel the debt in the framework of the Italian presidency of the G20″ and to “restructure investments in order to be able to support the recovery after the pandemic has exacerbated many crises already underway. Reducing the debt of the poorest countries is a challenge that Italy does not shy away from , especially now that, with the Covid-19 crisis, it is becoming increasingly difficult, especially in Africa, to pursue the sustainable development goals set by the UN ”.
Illustrating the proposal, the President of Link2007 Roberto Ridolfi explained that Release G20 , a plan aimed at easing the debt pressure weighing on low-income countries whose problems have been greatly aggravated by the effects of the pandemic, intends to change the paradigm of approach investment and debt. “Through different strategies, instead of repaying the debt to direct creditors or private partners, each country will be able to deposit the same amount in local currency directly in the country, in order to create an investment fund to be used in internal development actions”. The creation of national investment spaces, managed by governments but in which the private sector can and must also intervene, will ultimately have to provide for “the creation of a monitoring mechanism within the United Nations system, to check that funds are invested for purposes in line with the Development Goals”. A goal, this of debt relief, which is also under the attention of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, as confirmed by the diplomatic advisor and G20 Sherpa of Prime Minister Mario Draghi Luigi Mattiolo .
“ Africa loses $99 million in funding every year. This figure, combined with weak institutions, becomes a dynamic that limits the potential of our countries. Restructuring the debt will be essential to guarantee the recovery and for this reason we appreciate the G20 Release proposal and the innovative tools that come from the Italian presidency of the G20” said Ibrahim Assane Mayaki , director general of the African Union Development Agency at the conference – NEPAD. Foreign Minister of Guinea Conakry, Ibrahim Khali Kaba, underlined the medium and long-term value of the debt restructuring proposal, linking it to sustainable investments: “This initiative can really help Africa to face the pandemic and the consequent economic crisis” and Release G20 represents an ” importantopportunity ” represented by Release G20 . Transparency, vision, strategy and international partnerships are the keys, according to Kaba, to quickly find a common position on debt rediscussion. Emmanuel Pamu , permanent secretary for the budget of the Zambian economy ministry also spoke on the matter from Lusaka : “We are in line with this initiative, we strongly support it, but we must move quickly”.
During the round table of African ambassadors, in the second part of the webinar, a convergence of opinions was observed, both in the esteem for the work that the Italian Presidency of the G20 is doing precisely on the debt issue, and in the awareness of the need for a common position . During the round table, the ambassadors Ahmed Boutache Ambassador of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Joseph Katema Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia, Eudora H. Quartey Koranteng Ambassador of the Republic of Ghana, Fidèle Khakessa Sambassi Ambassador of the Republic Democrat of Congo, Ely Salem ZeinebAmbassador of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Youssef Balla Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, Pope Abdoulaye Seck Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal , Aly Coulibaly Ambassador of Mali . The members of the African diplomatic corps all said they were strongly motivated to support the G20 Release initiative and to work quickly in this direction, also involving and stimulating the diasporas, represented at the webinar by Cleophas Adrien Dioma, to greater cooperation : “I believe that the involvement of diasporic communities could be appropriate for the success of the initiative. We can bring our expertise, our point of view and our recommendations”.
Marco Ricci , president of the Development working group of the Italian Presidency of the G20, concluded the meeting : “This common vision” for a new debt sustainability of low-income countries “is a work-in-progress for which collaboration is crucial between the G20 and African countries” which will also require a revision of the development plans for the SDGs of the lending countries. An opportunity for everyone to join forces towards a more sustainable vision for 2030.