Ethical Pathways to Reduce Africa’s Sovereign Debt


Anazuo Saadat Salihu


8th edition (2020/2021)


Debt / Justice

Read the beginning of the text

The 1st century essay De Beneficiis by the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger can be regarded as a simplistic but classic evaluation of the complex nature of debt diplomacy and all the ethical questions it raises. In his opening statement, Seneca stressed that people do not know how to give and receive benefits. Other questions that were explored relate to the following:

  • In book six, there is the question of whether a benefit that has been provided can be forcibly taken away by the benefactor at his discretion.
  • In the seventh book, the concluding statement asks whether a debtor who is doing everything in his power to repay a debt should be treated in the same manner as another debtor who has not made efforts to repay his own obligations.
  • In the second book, Seneca uses anecdotes to suggest that benefactors who demand accountability and transparency are not beneficial to the debtors, but rather, are shaming them.
  • Along the same lines, it is emphasised that a benefactor should not give what would harm a receiver. The author in fact specifically stresses that “I never will give money to a man if I know that he will pay it to an adulteress” (XIV, Book II)… nor be connected to evil by assisting him to perpetuate any act of wickedness (Stewart, 2009).

Download the essay