IMF Loans in Africa: No Reforms - Just Utter Foolishness

By Maurice Kamara, Toronto, Canada. March 22, 2024.

Since last October 2023 to the first quarter of this year 2024 many African countries have either borrowed or negotiating or renegotiating for new loans from the IMF. Call it a tragedy or a farce, the reality is that both Africa’s ruling elites and the IMF refuse to learn anything from the past, even after unsuccessful loan programmes and failing the people time and again. As our continent seeks a longer and larger bailout, it is no secret that IMF programmes have hardly delivered on their objectives, because neither the authorities nor the Fund have shown enough interest in actively pursuing the needed reforms. If African rulers have been more concerned about accessing money and accreditation to continue their import-based consumption policies to show economic growth, the IMF has been focused on short-term stabilisation measures, despite the costs imposed on the people and economy. For example, usually at the beginning of those loan programmes, there is much talk of forcing the rich to pay their due share. And yet, the IMF lender agrees to shift a bigger load of harsh fiscal adjustments on the poor and salaried classes through indirect taxes or higher tax rates for captive taxpayers. So, it is not surprising to hear people sometimes blame the IMF for the recurrent economic crises in most countries on our continent.

Where is the improvement of the lives of ordinary Africans? My native country Sierra Leone is the worst of all. The reality is those IMF loans have never instilled growth and confidence on African economies because most of the lunatics running our various countries on the continent have no prudent financial policy management. No descent ways of revenue generation and they are totally devoid of virtually any idea of taxation to generate revenue for the state. Compound that with the impact of high petrol and energy prices (both as indirect taxes) on the poor African man and woman, it squeezes the financial hell out of ordinary citizens.

The more and more those IMF loans are taken the more and more poverty levels are increasing in our continent. And even middle-income households in Africa are struggling under the weight of high energy and petrol prices. Meanwhile, the elites running our countries in Africa continue to live a life of opulence, spending holidays abroad and buying luxury imported cars with borrowed IMF dollars. And with more of them seeking bailout after bailout, which most of those African leaders describe as imperative for economic stability (untrue), IMF the lender will continue to demand stringent austerity measures as guaranteed agreement for the loans. Caught up somewhere in the middle of the quagmire is the poor ordinary Africans. Will the outcome be any different for future IMF loans? You can put a bet on your house that the answer is HELL NO. Ordinary Africans can only hope for better days. But hope is not what we bargained for when our various countries got independence.

Maurice Kamara (The Messenger)