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COVID-19: Okonjo-Iweala Reveals Why Nigeria, Others Need To Ask For Debt Relief

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Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has urged all African countries to ask for debt relief from G7 and G20 in order to use it to deal with the effects rising from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a chat with the BBC, Okonjo-Iweala said all African countries in debt need to apply for multiple sources of funds to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

The former minister added that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has put forward $50 billion as an emergency fund, and already 80 African countries have applied for the relief fund.

Okonjo-Iweala noted that the Nigerian government needs to support the daily paid and informal sector workers in Nigeria and Africa affected by the lockdown.

She said: “You know we have several sources, you’ve got the African Development Bank, which has just floated a social bond for $3 billion that will be available to the countries on the continent.

“You have the World Bank that has set aside $14 billion of which they’ve already committed $2 billion to 25 countries — and 11 of them are Africans. Many of our countries need to move, to take advantage of this, and they are willing to commit $150 billion dollars over the next 15 months.”

She added: “The IMF has put forward $50 billion as an emergency fund, and already 80 countries have applied for this, many of them African”.

“It also has a $1 billion grant fund; catastrophe containment and relief trust, which they can approach. Let me mention my own organisation, GAVI, where I am chair of the board. We have made immediately available $200 million to $300 million grant.

“Once these monies become available if the countries get debt relief, that means that the monies they would have been paying to service the debt that they’ve taken from other countries; bilateral debts or from institutions, this monies can now be used to procure food and supplied and support the livelihood of people in the rural and urban area.

“Government can use these resources as part of an intervention fund to help people directly, and I think this is what they should be looking to do. But we need to move quickly, the debt relief we haven’t got it yet.

“There needs to be a great deal of pressure on the G7, G20 to come forward with this measure and then countries need to start availing themselves of the already available resources, and then pressure for the debt relief.”

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