The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lent billions of dollars to many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to combat the coronavirus pandemic and respond to the economic crisis that followed as a result of reduced services, shutdowns and lockdowns. Now, the IMF wants to know how the billions of dollars have been spent, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said at roundtable with journalists on Friday.
Many African leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, promised to spend the money on social services and healthcare, but there is little evidence the money was spent for that purpose.
Businesses shut down, people were sacked and unemployment numbers skyrocketed as countries in the region tried to battle the respiratory illness.
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Almost a year after, there is no single person who has been vaccinated in Nigeria or Ethiopia, and the situation is not much different in many other countries.
On Friday, the Director General of the World Health organization lamented at his regular press briefing from Geneva that three quarters of all the vaccinations in the world have occurred in just 10 rich countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The ten countries account for almost 60% of global GDP.
However, around 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose, many of them in Africa.
Georgieva said the IMF has been “fast” and delivered “massive support” to African countries.
“Actually six to eight times above our average levels, annual average levels. We have huge responsibility for the money to be used for the purposes declared,” Georgieva said.
She added: “What we built in our emergency financing are two things. One, for countries where there is a need to strengthen the accountability up front, we would put what we call prior actions: show us that you have transparency of procurement; and if you don’t have it, put it in place. And for all countries, we are asking for audits of how money was spent. Show us the receipts.
“Remember, I would say spend, but keep the receipts. Show us the receipts. And we are now at this stage of collecting the receipts and looking at those very, very carefully.”
The IMF has been conducting virtual audits that are difficult to verify using the phone or the Internet.
Georgieva also lamented that the economic growth for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 is projected to be 3.2 percent (3.6 percent for the entire continent) while the rest of the world would be growing at about 5.5 percent.
“It has to be the other way around. Africa has to be growing six, seven, eight, nine percent,” she said, warning that with COVID-19 and lack of vaccinations, things could be even worse for Africa.
The IMF COVID-19 loans to African countries would be repaid in about five years, and if mismanaged by the current leaders, others will have to foot the bills.