PRIMATES from six Anglican Provinces stood together on Monday afternoon to demand that the UK Government cancel debt owed by Zambia and other low-income countries.
In a ceremonial act between sessions at the Lambeth Conference, the Primates ripped up an imitation cheque, symbolising the $4.74 billion owed by Zambia to banks and private lenders, including the British-based asset-management firm BlackRock.
The Primate of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, noted a study by the charity Debt Justice, which shows that spending on social services in Zambia, a country within his Province, fell by more than one fifth between 2019 and 2021, as income was, instead, used to service debts to foreign banks.
“Because of this, ordinary Zambians lose out on health care, education, and development projects which would give them a fair chance to thrive and build futures,” Archbishop Chama said.
“For too long, by chasing excess profits on loans, private capital in wealthy countries has put the lives of people in low-income countries in jeopardy. It has to stop now.”
Debt Justice estimates that BlackRock will make $180 million in profit if Zambia’s debt is repaid in full.
Debt Justice has joined Christian Aid, CAFOD, and Action for Southern Africa in calling on the UK Government to press for the cancellation of the debt.
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said that he was glad for the “opportunity to support brothers and sisters who are suffering”.
The Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, said that such moments of international solidarity demonstrated the importance of the Anglican Communion.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba; the Bishop of Lesotho, Dr Vicentia Kgabe; and the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John, also attended the event.
On Wednesday, Archbishop Chama expanded on the affects on Zambians. “Our thinking is that once the debt is restructured, or cancelled, by God’s grace, all the money that was going to pay the debt will come back to Zambia, for the benefit of everybody,” he said.
He was speaking in the Lambeth Palace Garden, at the launch of the Communion Forest, a new initiative that aims to inspire dioceses to start environmental projects. Archbishop Chama said that, in Zambia, where resource extraction was a significant part of the economy, it was important to ensure that “developmental programmes are compatible with environmental protection”. It was also important to campaign against deforestation and to encourage tree planting, he said.
Archbishop Chama suggested that this work would be easier if Zambia was alleviated from its debt.