By Chijioke Okoronkwo, Abuja.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo says the Federal Government will reap billions of dollars in debt relief from some creditors, if the Debt-for-Climate (DFC) swap deal is accepted.
Osinbajo’s spokesman, Laolu Akande, in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, said that the vice-president proposed the swap deal recently in the U.S.
The idea, described as fresh thinking in Washington D.C by senior American government officials, is already eliciting positive reviews, even as Osinbajo explained the potential for significant debt cancellation for African countries.
In his meetings with the top officials of the U.S. Government, right after his speech at the Centre for Global Development (CGD), Osinbajo pushed the DFC idea.
“The proposed DFC swaps would be a very useful intervention and helpful as it will reduce debt burdens, while advancing the Climate Change objectives of the international community,” he said.
The vice-president also described the idea as a climate change-related financing instrument, which deserved global consideration, as it was a win-win proposal.
Osinbajo also canvassed the idea of opening up the Carbon Market in Africa so that the climate change actions of African countries could be adequately verified by the international community through the assessments of the appropriate verification institutions.
“We are hoping to get support and international buy-ins for these ideas,” he said, citing specifically the DFC and the participation of African countries in the international carbon market.
He reiterated that the proposed DFC arrangement would help solve many of the debt burden challenges facing Nigeria and other countries.
Reacting to the DFC proposal, Samantha Power, the Administrator of USAID, told the vice-president that the idea was “fresh thinking that is very exciting”.
He added that the U.S. was open to such new thinking, even though it would require the full policy review of the American Government.
Experts say that under the DFC deal, sovereign debtors and international creditors will forgive all or a portion of countries’ external debt.
The debt often runs into billions of dollars in a country like Nigeria, in exchange for a commitment by the country to invest in domestic currency, in specific climate or energy transition projects during a commonly agreed period.
The expectation is that DFC deal will reduce the level of indebtedness and free up fiscal resources to be invested in clean energy projects in Nigeria and other countries that signed up for the programme, once accepted by creditor-nations.
Osinbajo had explained that the swap deal was a type of debt swap where bilateral or multilateral debt was forgiven by creditors, in exchange for a commitment by the debtor country to use the outstanding debt service payments for national climate action programmes.
“Typically, the creditor country or institution agrees to forgive part of a debt if the debtor country would pay the avoided debt service in a local currency into an escrow or any other transparent fund.
“And the funds must then be used for agreed climate projects in the debtor country,” he said.
While in Washington D.C., the vice-president met with his American counterpart, Kamala Harris, at the White House and the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen
He also held an interactive session with a group of Nigerian staff members of the World Bank and the IMF.