African Catholic bishops call for a fresh and seamless approach to Africa’s development, new method for distributing special drawing rights

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental” – Pope Francis

ACCRA, GHANA, 20th April 2022 – The world needs initiatives that will support governments to work for the benefit of all and avoid implementing measures that further isolate the poor and the vulnerable in society.

This was said by the Justice and Peace Commission of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). In a statement to the delegates to the ongoing 2022 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, SECAM – the regional body of Catholic bishops in Africa – further urged that the meeting not merely discuss the global economy in terms of what it produces, but also by how it touches and promotes life, protects human dignity and safeguards the integrity of creation. “We wish to amplify the voice of Pope Francis in defending human dignity and we reiterate his words for an economy that gives life rather than one that kills,” exhorted the statement. “As we work for recovery, we are not doing so in order to return to an unequal and unsustainable model of economic and social life, where a tiny minority of the world’s population owns half of its wealth as millions wallow in poverty. We must develop just social and economic systems that support distribution of wealth and guide humanity to be inclusive of all people and eliminate economic inequality from society.” While acknowledging that COVID-19 has affected all peoples and has shown how interconnected humanity is, the African Catholic bishops also observed that the pandemic has exposed a deeply divided and glaringly unequal world. “In a region that is home to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor, on account of the harsh economic impacts of COVID-19, 40 million more Africans fell into extreme poverty, lacking access to basic goods and services like health, education, food, water and so on,” the statement revealed.

SECAM lamented that Africa remains the least vaccinated region worldwide, exposing Africans to new coronavirus surges and economic disruptions, and prolonging the crisis. “Progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063 are under threat. Africa is also the continent most vulnerable to climate change, with effects visible in loss of arable land and water, higher incidence of natural disasters and forced displacement. These are effects of an unsustainable economy that despoils creation,” said the document, going on to cite Pope Francis who has said: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental”.

In the face of COVID-19, debt as a proportion of the size of Africa’s economy has risen from 60% to 70% in the inverse scenario where demands on spending have surged while revenues have conversely plummeted. The bishops reiterated the call of the SECAM President, His Eminence Phillippe Cardinal Ouédraogo, who in his 2022 New Year message aspired “for our continent good economic recovery, free of debts that have been strangling it”.

The bishops called on G20 Finance Ministers and other world leaders gathering at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings to put in place viable plans for Africa to emerge from the crisis with resilience and resume progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement.

While the agency and responsibility of African leaders is essential to achieving those goals, Africa will however still require substantial external support from the international community. Of the USD 650 billion worth of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) created by IMF last year for coronavirus response and recovery aid, only a mere USD 33 billion was allocated to Africa. Wealthy countries which received more than USD 400 billion should rechannel a significant portion of their SDRs to African countries to support local efforts for vaccine purchase and climate-change adaptation. SECAM welcomed G20’s commitment to rechannelling USD 100 billion but called on wealthy countries to do much more. “However, we would also like to caution that care be taken so that the vehicles for SDR rechannelling protect debt sustainability and avoid pre-conditions and policies that worsen poverty, inhibit human development and restrict access to essential services,” cautioned the bishops. SECAM called for a new SDR allocation, to at least thrice the resources Africa received last year.

World leaders should also review the method for distributing SDRs so that their allocation is more aligned with recipients’ needs, rather than purely pegged to financial capacity.

For more information:

SECAM – Simson Mwale, Justice and Peace Programme Officer (

JENA – Fr Charlie Chilufya, Director, Justice and Ecology Office (, Jesuit Conference on Africa and Madagascar

Media contact:

JENA - Ms. Njeri Okono, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Specialist, ( Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA)

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