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'A stain on humanity' Christian Aid report finds Africa spends more on debt than education

by Donna Birrell

The majority of African countries spent more repaying external debts than on healthcare or education last year, according to a new report by international aid agency Christian Aid.

Researchers calculated that African governments spent over 50 times more on external debt payments than the entire UK aid budget to the continent in 2023, with 32 spending more on debt than healthcare and 25 spending more on debt than education. As a consequence, millions of children are missing out on school and pregnant women are unable to give birth in a hospital, or even with the help of a midwife.

Jennifer Larbie who is Head of UK Advocacy and Campaigns at Christian Aid told Premier :

“Investment in education and health is now secondary to debt payments paid by African countries and we think that is a stain on our collective humanity.”

Christian Aid’s ‘Between Life and Death’ report is calling for urgent action from the UK government to wipe the debts of lower income countries – a move which approaching half (45 per cent) of Britons agree with, according to new polling released alongside the report.

The research reveals that Sudan - where millions are facing acute hunger - spends more than ten times more on external debt servicing than healthcare. Meanwhile in Malawi, where just 15 per cent of children complete secondary school, twice as much is spent on debt than education.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who led global debt relief effort in the 2000s said: “Africa, despite rapid improvements, is the only region expected to lag behind the rest of the world in life expectancy by 2050. The scale of this inequality between Africans and the rest of the world is so great that I am not sure the world will ever forgive us for failing to deliver urgent debt restructuring.

“In many African countries, more money is being spent on debt payments than on health or education, and so debt restructuring is a matter of life and death.”

The new poll conducted by Savanta for Christian Aid reveals the majority (62 per cent) of Britons believe it is wrong that more than half of African countries spend more money on external debt than on health, education or combatting the climate crisis.

Christian Aid wants the UK government to introduce legislation to ensure private lenders play their part in cancelling debt when lower income countries are in crisis and tackle ‘predatory’ private creditors who charge the highest interest rates.

Jennifer Larbie said : “This would help create a fairer system, prevent future crises and improve the lives of millions.”

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