KAMPALA – African Governments have been urged to address illicit financial flows and unsure utilization of available resources instead of relying heavily on borrowing.
The call was made during a conference organized by the African Coalition for Corporate Accountability (ACCA) and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala on Tuesday.
Themed “The Africa We Want: Reclaiming Public Services in Africa”, the seminal acknowledges African States’ primary obligation to provide public services for their people and provides a framework to regulate private actors.
The conference aimed at bringing together a diverse range of human rights advocates, civil society actors, academics, practitioners, community members, and policymakers to explore the need to reclaim public services in Africa and the impact of commercialisation and privatisation on social services, including, their profound implications on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly, health, education, water, and electricity, among others.
Experts note that Africa’s rising debt burden threatens the future availability of public services as debt repayment increasingly takes the lion share of budget funds.
The ISER Executive Director – Angella Nabwowe notes that African governments are increasingly spending a lot of money on debt servicing and repayment with little money left for citizens.
“Our public debt is too high, meaning that the money that would have gone to education, support public health is ending up in debt repayment.”
Although Africa is rich in minerals and now oil, Nabwowe decried a lot of money that goes out of the country due to corruption and governance issues.
“We are saying that let’s have Africa where Africans have access to quality education, quality public health care, access to social protection because we pay taxes and when you look at progressive taxation, we can finance all those through curbing illicit financial flows.”
Ugandan representative at the East African Legislative assembly Dr Gerald Siranda who doubles as Democratic Party Secretary General says that there is a need to address the challenge of Governance if African countries are to make progress.
“A lot of the things causing conflicts within our region are the imbalances and how people don’t benefit from the taxes they pay. Every time I find a poor road, or poor health services I ask, where do the taxes go?”
He added, “Africa has a governance gap, how we lead our people, how we balance our taxes and the question of corruption are all governance gaps. When we borrow, how do we use them within the service delivery of people? For me, if every money we borrow we would use it appropriately, we wouldn’t be indebted the way we are.”
Giving his keynote address, Brian Kagoro, a lawyer and Pan-Africanist from Zimbabwe criticized African countries for failing to learn from their colonial past and continue to beg from the powerful countries who are determined to control African resources.
He decried less attention African governments pay to their poor locals and put much emphasis on the rich.
“The poor don’t have access to technology. The poor child doesn’t have the same infrastructure as the child who grew up in the wealthier part of the African countries. From the on-set, that child is growing up at a disadvantage.”
“When the state collects taxes, it invests more in the rich people’s areas, the poor people are left on their own and yet they pay more taxes than the rich people,” he added.
According to him, the idea that poor people don’t pay taxes forgets that each time they buy, they pay value-added tax.
“The world is trying to control our minerals which we need to develop our people. Africa has not improved how it deals with its natural wealth, we are still selling our raw materials without adding value to them and as such we are becoming enslaved as we were before.”