The least developed countries’ debts rose  to $744 billion in 2019, the World Bank said yesterday.

According to the 2021 International Debts Statistics (IDS) report the total external debt of Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)-eligible countries climbed 9.5 per cent to a record $744 billion from the previous year.

In Africa, Angola, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, and 26 others are among the least developed countries. Nigeria is not on the list of least developed countries.

The rising debt for the countries  highlighted an urgent need for creditors and borrowers alike to collaborate to stave off the growing risk of sovereign-debt crises triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pace of debt accumulation for these countries was nearly twice the rate of other low- and middle-income countries in 2019.

According to the World Bank, in response to an urgent need for greater debt transparency, the latest edition of the IDS report provides more detailed and more disaggregated data on external debt than ever before in its nearly 70-year history—including breakdowns of what each borrowing country owes to official and private creditors in each creditor country, and the expected month-by-month debt-service payments owed to them through 2021.

Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising public debt levels were already a cause for concern, particularly in many of the world’s poorest countries as discussed in our Four Waves of Debt report published last December.

Responding to a call from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the G20 endorsed the DSSI in April 2020 to help up to 73 of the poorest countries manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.