Report from Africa Jubilee South Assembly, Day 1.
By NEIL WATKINS, National Coordinator, Jubilee USA Network
August 6, 2008
I am writing today from the opening day of the Africa Jubilee South Assembly, being held in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s an historic gathering of African debt and development campaigners from more than 20 African countries.
It’s happening in a very appropriate place for a discussion of the continuing debt crisis - Kenya. Kenya has been excluded from debt cancellation deals to date despite the fact that 22.8 percent of the Kenyan population lives on less than $1 a day and 58.3 percent live on less than $2 per day. The government spends 1 of every $5 in its budget servicing debt – more than it spends on health or education.
The meeting is also taking place at a critical time for the whole African continent. Even for the 19 African nations that have received debt cancellation – including Kenya’s neighbors in East Africa, Tanzania and Uganda – a new debt crisis is emerging. That debt crisis is being fueled by the dramatic increase in food and fuel prices.
I spoke with a taxi driver here in Nairobi who explained to me that the cost of fuel here has gone up 30% in just the past 6 months – which he cant afford. That increase is hard enough for Americans – it’s untenable for Kenyans. Even worse, the price of food is skyrocketing here.