Investigative report: Southern Africa’s debt conundrum

This investigative journalism project was necessitated by the growing need to better understand the nature of southern Africa’s debt crisis—with particular reference to Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
These countries were selected in view of the fiscal solvency of their fragile economies and their vulnerability to a rising debt stock, as well as the wider impact on socio-economic development.


The report provides an overview of the risks and challenges faced by the regional states as they seek a path to debt sustainability. In sub-Saharan Africa, 16 countries are classified as having either a high risk of debt distress or being in debt distress. The average public debt in the region was estimated at 57% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as at the end of 2018. Between 2010 and 2018, the debt payments of developing countries increased by 85%, which sent alarm bells ringing.

We unlock Southern Africa’s Debt Conundrum by tracing the genesis of the debt problem and scrutinising the role of governments and international financial institutions.

Southern Africa, a region endowed with vast natural resources, is now an intriguing theatre of the geopolitics of strategic minerals as China, the United States and Russia are now locked in a scramble for economic opportunities in this part of the world. But from a public debt sustainability perspective, can the regional countries rise to the challenge by taking advantage of the global powers’ renewed interest?

This report uncovers the nexus between unsustainable debt and unsatisfactory delivery of social services, showing how debt is contributing to poverty and economic turmoil. Policy recommendations to enhance debt sustainability are then proffered.

Click here to watch a video of the conference.