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Africa's Odious Debts: How Foreign Loans and Capital Flight Bled a Continent (African Arguments) Paperback – September 27, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Africa's Odious Debts is a path-breaking book that should be read by every student, professional and policymaker concerned with the causes of the region's underdevelopment. In a masterful, easily comprehendible and professionally thorough manner, the authors demolish the myth that African countries have received large net capital flows. In a detailed empirical presentation, they show quite the contrary: capital outflow from the poorest countries in the world, to the richest. This book should radically alter thinking and policy." -John Weeks, Professor Emeritus, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

 

"Ndikumana and Boyce present a coruscating analysis of the deleterious impact of crushing debt and capital flight on poor African countries that are ironically among the largest recipients of foreign aid. Eminently readable, it is a fascinating study on how absolute power corrupts absolutely beyond the tethers of human conscience." - Dev Kar, Lead Economist, Global Financial Integrity

"This is probably the most important book on Africa in recent years; it is vital reading for everyone with an interest in African affairs. The story of Africa's revolving door of inflowing debts and outflowing capital is one with catastrophic consequences for the ordinary people of Africa. Léonce Ndikumana and James Boyce have put in many years of legwork to explore the dimensions of this scandal, and the data they marshal shows, conclusively, how Africa has become a net creditor to the rest of the world, while remaining shackled to poverty by outstanding odious debts. Much can be done to free African countries from this appalling burden, and the authors are right to identify strengthening transparency, curtailing money laundering, repudiating odious debt and recovering stolen wealth as top priorities. Enraging, enlightening and encouraging in equal measure, this book combines passion and research excellence: a genuine tour de force." - John Christensen, Director, Tax Justice Network

About the Author

James K. Boyce is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he directs the program on development, peacebuilding, and the environment at the Political Economy Research Institute. His previous books include Peace and the Public Purse: Economic Policies for Postwar Statebuilding (co-edited with Madalene O’Donnell); Investing in Peace: Aid and Conditionality after Civil Wars; and A Quiet Violence: View from a Bangladesh Village (co-authored with Betsy Hartmann.) He is a graduate of Yale University and received his doctorate from Oxford University.

Léonce Ndikumana is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He served as Director of Operational Policies and Director of Research at the African Development Bank, and Chief of Macroeconomic Analysis at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He has contributed to various areas of research and policy analysis on African countries, including the issues of external debt and capital flight, financial markets and growth, macroeconomic policies for growth and employment, and the economics of conflict and civil wars in Africa. He is a graduate of the University of Burundi and received his doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
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Product Details

  • Series: African Arguments
  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848134592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848134591
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #923,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading this book a lot. It wasn't the easiest book to read, some of the ideas are complicated and difficult to understand. But the basic premise is clear and important.

It's long been known that African countries have serious debt problems with money borrowed from Western banks. Likewise it's well known that there's a lot of corruption within many African governments. This book makes the connection between those two things. And in doing so, the authors present a significant proposal concerning who is really responsible for those debts. If banks loan money to a country and the leaders of that country immediately steal it (sometimes moving the loot right back to the banks it came from), do the people of the country owe the debt or is it more rightly owed by the leaders who stole it? This book shows that there are strong arguments that it's the leaders who owe the debt, not the countries. Plus the authors contend that the banks should have known (and probably did know) where their loaned money was ending up, which makes them complicit, at least in part, in the scam.
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Otherwise intelligent commentators on the economics of development are at a loss when dealing with the problems of sub-Sahara Africa. William Easterly, professor of economics at NYU, Co-Director of NYU's Development Research Institute and constant thorn in the side of Jeffrey Sachs seems to miss the point when he writes that the power of democracy and free markets, implemented by "homegrown political, economic, and social reformers and entrepreneurs" (in other words a new and as yet non-existent generation of local elites) as if this can be accomplished by the debt ravaged nations of the poorest continent.

Léonce Ndikumana and James Boyce point to one of the most intractable problems faced by African countries, "odious debt", defined as debts incurred without the consent of the people, used for private benefit rather than public good and issued by creditors who were either aware, or should have been aware, of the lack of consent and benefit of such loans. One could also add (at least I would) that the lenders of such debt, whether transnational organizations like the IMF, international financial institutions like the World Bank or the African Development Bank or the money center banks with headquarters in New York, London or Paris and with world-wide reach were also aware that the chances for actual repayment of interest and principal on many of these loans was negligible.

For example, more than half of the money borrowed by African governments in recent decades departed in the same year, with a significant portion of it winding up in private accounts at the very banks that provided the loans in the first place.
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For those who wish to understand the dynamics of international lending and borrowing, economic colonialism, and the way the game of economic power politics is played, Africa's Odious Debts is a must-read. For those who are concerned about the well-being -- or not -- of human and natural resources, it is also a must-read. I strongly recommend Africa's Odious Debts, together with a book referenced by Mr. Ndikumana, Treasure Islands by Nicholas Shaxson, be studied together. These books document the tremendous work that needs to be done to bring ethics and justice to our global economic system. Organizations addressing such issues, like Jubilee USA Network, Afrodad, Eurodad, and others, can use our involvement and support.
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Format: Paperback
Don't be put off by the title which perhaps implies that it was written for economists or that it has a very narrow range of content. This book is a page turner. It is concise and informative, its arguments backed up with clear tables and graphs. It also has broader implications concerning the need for good governance, transparency and the nature of the banking industry. That the latter -- often with government support -- tolerates and actively connives with some of the most unpleasant people on the planet provides much food for thought. Highly recommended.
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