Mo Ibrahim Slams Rating Agencies for the Financial Burden of ...
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News - October 13, 2023

Mo Ibrahim Slams Rating Agencies for the Financial Burden of African Debt

Telecoms billionaire, Mo Ibrahim has blamed the high cost of capital in Africa on the grades rating agencies give countries on the continent.

The 77-year-old Sudanese founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation made this statement during a conversation with the President of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, at the annual meeting of the lender in Marrakech, Morocco.

His strongly worded comments lend voice to similar complaints several African presidents and finance ministers have made of late.

He said, “The problem with the cost of capital in Africa is rating agencies’ junk grade of African countries. They sit in South Africa pontificating.”

The Sudan philanthropist asked why African countries are considered distressed when their debt-to-GDP ratio is 40 per cent while the ratio for European countries is 137 per cent.

He called out the practice of rating agencies to offer consulting services to countries they have condemned which raises questions of conflict of interests.

What the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Report say

A report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation revealed that Africa’s public debt is lower than any other world region but Oceania in absolute terms. 

The report revealed that the total debt stock owed by all African governments equates to over $1.8 trillion, while Germany alone has a greater debt stock of $2.9 trillion.

It said, “Even adjusted for GDP, African debt does not stand out as being uniquely high with 49 African countries having lower public debt-to-GDP ratios than the US (122.2 per cent) in 2023. Japan (258.2 per cent) and Greece (166.0 per cent) have higher public debt-to-GDP ratios than any African country. Yet eight of the nine countries listed by the IMF as being in ‘debt distress’ in 2023 are African. This is because structural factors make debt uniquely burdensome for Africa.” 

What you need to know 

Recall that in February 2023, Nigeria’s then finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, said she disagreed with what she called a “surprise” downgrade of the country’s credit rating by Moody’s.

Moody’s downgraded the country’s credit ratings early in the year to Caa1 from B3, saying the government’s fiscal and debt position was expected to keep deteriorating.

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