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African Nations Ask Creditors to Cancel Debt to Ease Crisis

December 01, 1987|Associated Press

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The chairman of the Organization of African Unity said Monday that industrialized nations helped create Africa's collective $200-billion debt and asked them to reconsider canceling all or part of Africa's debt.

"Either we find effective and lasting solutions to the debt crisis now or we will continue to wallow in abject mass poverty for a long time to come," said Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.

Kaunda opened a two-day emergency summit to discuss African debt and to seek a common approach to dealing with the problem.

"From the evidence we have so far gained, it is clear that unless we adopt a common response, creditor nations will continue to deal with our crisis in a manner only advantageous to them," Kaunda said.

In addition to appealing for debt forgiveness, the OAU chairman called on developed countries to grant more concessional loan terms to African nations.

The collective debt of OAU's 50 member states is expected to increase to $550 billion by the year 2000, according to figures released by the Pan-African group.

Kaunda said Africa must demand more for its goods to offset that debt.

"The industrialized countries which have caused and benefited from the low prices of our exports are co-responsible with us for the debt crisis and must play an active role in resolving it," Kaunda said.

Besides Kaunda, the leaders of Botswana, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Rwanda and Zimbabwe attended the summit.

The centerpiece of discussion is a proposal drawn up last week by finance and monetary experts and ratified during the weekend by foreign ministers. It asked creditor countries to:

- Cancel all debts owed by Africa's least developed and low-income countries.

- Allow African nations to repay part of their debts in local currencies.

- Convert bilateral loans to grants.

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