Where credit is due How african's debt can be a benefits not a burden

Where Credit is Due: How Africa’s Debt Can Be a Benefit, Not a Burden

A very readable in-depth study of the history and trends of government-issued sovereign debt in Africa, giving policy recommendations on how African governments can make the best of use of debt. The book – like this blog – covers all the countries on the African continent and does not split off sub-Saharan Africa. He looks for common trends, while also reflecting the diversity of different countries. Each chapter has two country case studies at the end, to help drill into different countries situations.

The book is written from a strong background. Greg Smith is an economist and an emerging markets fund manager at M&G Investments in London, with a career in investing and strategy on debt in emerging markets, as a senior economist at the World Bank and as an fellow of the Overseas Development Institute (Zambia early 2000s). To research the book he travelled to 26 countries and draws n his experience of living in Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Harare and Lusaka. 

Despite its negative press, debt financing can have many positive benefits for governments and their populations, balancing boom and bust cycles and spurring investment into large public infrastructure projects. But often it has been used to prop up government spending, including before elections, to put off needed reforms and to finance projects that have been opaque and full of corruption.

Published in June 2021 by Hurst in UK (and it will come in November to the USA via Oxford University Press) the book is fully up to date on the effects of the giant wave of borrowing to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic – and of some of the sovereign debt defaults. He speaks of debt that can be used to mobilize private capital and other investment as Africa aims at the challenges of the meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and whether enough is being done to meet the challenge of climate change. It also charts the changing composition of debt, and difficulties sometimes in gaining accurate numbers.

The book is important for everyone– including African policy-makers as well as investors, researchers and economists – wishing to understand the history and lessons learned on sovereign debt. Its extensively researched.

Former President of Nigeria and Chairperson of the African Union Olusegun Obasanjo recommends the book: “This fluent study brings together many insights on Africa debt. Just as debt used wisely is an essential tool for African development, this book is invaluable to understanding its pitfalls and Africa’s policy choices.”

Alex Vines OBE, Director, Africa Programme, Chatham House and Assistant Professor, Coventry University: “This is an important book for anyone seeking fresh thinking on how to turn this crisis into a longer term opportunity to scale up investment for post-Covid19 economic recovery and achieve the development goals.”