Where Credit Is Due

How Africa’s Debt Can Be a Benefit, Not a Burden

June 2021 9781787384750 240pp
Available as an eBook


Borrowing is a crucial source of financing for governments all over the world. If they get it wrong, then debt crises can bring progress to a halt. But if it’s done right, investment happens and conditions improve. 

African countries are seeking calmer capital, to raise living standards and give their economies a competitive edge. The African debt landscape has changed radically in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. Since the clean slate of extensive debt relief, states have sought new borrowing opportunities from international capital markets and emerging global powers like China. The new debt composition has increased risk, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic: richer countries borrowed at rock-bottom interest rates, while Africa faced an expensive jump in indebtedness.

 The escalating debt burden has provoked calls by the G20 for suspension of debt payments. But Africa’s debt today is highly complex, and owed to a wider range of lenders. A new approach is needed, and could turn crisis into opportunity. Urgent action by both lenders and borrowers can reduce risk, while carefully preserving market access; and smart deployment of private finance can provide the scale of investment needed to achieve development goals and tackle the climate emergency.


‘[Smith] provides an excellent introduction to the current debt crisis and the policy issues involved.’ — Foreign Affairs

‘The essential guide on Africa’s biggest financial problem-how to borrow without tears.’ — Joseph Cotterill, Financial Times

‘A very readable, in-depth look at the history and trends of government-issued sovereign debt in Africa, giving policy recommendations on how African governments can make the best of use of debt.’ — African Business

‘The book’s commonsense approach and engaging style draw in the reader […] a valuable addition to the literature and well worth reading for those interested in African debt issues.’ — International Monetary Fund

‘Africa’s debt burden is again at the centre of a global debate over repayment suspension or cancellation. In Where Credit is Due, Gregory Smith succinctly reviews the mistakes of the past and shows that lessons can be learned and African solutions must take centre stage. This is an important book for anyone seeking fresh thinking on how to turn this crisis into a longer term opportunity to scale up investment for post-Covid19 economic recovery and achieve the development goals.’ — Alex Vines OBE, Director, Africa Programme, Chatham House and Assistant Professor, Coventry University

‘This fluent study brings together many insights on Africa debt. Just as debt used wisely is an essential tool for African development, this book is invaluable to understanding its pitfalls and Africa’s policy choices.’ — Former President of Nigeria and Chairperson of the African Union Olusegun Obasanjo

‘Gregory Smith’s book is an extensively researched and well-argued analysis of how Africa can access and make best use of debt financing. The comprehensive country breakdowns give a timely reminder that Africa is not a generic investment destination. The book will be of interest to policymakers, investors and academics in Africa and globally.’ — David Whitehouse, business editor, The Africa Report


Gregory Smith (PhD) is an economist who analyses and overturns commonly held assumptions about investing in emerging and frontier markets. He has advised African governments, worked in global financial markets as an investor, and as an economist at the World Bank. His research has featured on Bloomberg and in The Economist, the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

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