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Current initiatives by the G7 and other Western creditors to write off the debts of the world's heavily indebted countries, the majority of which are in sub Saharan Africa, has interested both African states themselves and among non-governmental organizations working towards poverty alleviation. If this is implemented, governments will no longer have to divert large proportions of national revenue away from development to debt-servicing obligations. This article argues, however, that sub Saharan Africa debt is attributable to both internal and external factors, aggravated by the hostile global economy and by the lending conditionalities of international financial institutions. The paper is optimistic that unconditional debt cancellation will allow sub Saharan Africa to emerge from decay and stagnation. However, it warns that, while it is a necessary condition for improvement, debt cancellation alone is not sufficient to reverse the despondency into which sub Saharan Africa has fallen. Debt cancellation must be augmented by interrelated domestic policies such as deepening democratization, striving towards gender parity, stemming conditions that precipitate incessant conflicts, reversing the region's crumbling environmental conditions, and fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Journal of Social Development in Africa Vol 16 No 2 2001, pp. 147-170