China’ll cancel some African countries’ debts, says envoy

China has said it will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020.

China’s Consul General in Lagos, Chu Maoming, who disclosed this in an article made available to our correspondent on Monday, said the plan was announced by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during the recent Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 in Beijing.

The envoy quoted President Xi as saying at the summit that China would work with the global community to give greater support to “those African countries that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress”.

The support would include a further extension of the period of debt suspension to help tide them over the current difficulty.

Nigeria is one of the African countries indebted to China but it is not clear if the country will benefit from the debt cancellation.

The country’s total borrowing from China stood at $3.12bn (N1.13tn) as of March 31, 2020, the Debt Management Office said last week.

The DMO said the amount represented 3.94 per cent of Nigeria’s total public debt of $79.30bn (N28.63tn) as of March 31, adding that it accounted for 11.28 per cent of the country’s external debt stock of $27.67bn.

Maoming said the President stressed the need for China and Africa to stay committed to fighting COVID-19 together, enhancing China-Africa cooperation, upholding multilateralism, and taking China-Africa friendship forward.

“Common efforts in these areas will demonstrate the firm determination of the two sides to defeat COVID-19 with solidarity and cooperation, point the way forward for epidemic response and practical cooperation between China and Africa, and chart the course for the future of China-Africa relations,” he said.

The envoy said Chinese and African leaders agreed at the summit to step up joint efforts to combat the disease and build a China-Africa community of health for all.

He said, “At the height of China’s battle against the virus, African countries offered their invaluable moral and material support.

“In the same spirit, China has and will continue to give full support to African countries as they fight COVID-19, including by sending supplies and medical expert teams, and speeding up the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters.

“China pledged that once its development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed, African countries will be among the first to benefit.”

Maoming said China would also ramp up support for African countries and heavily-indebted poor countries on the basis of the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative.

He said, “To cushion the impact of COVID-19 on China-Africa cooperation, the two sides agreed to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit with greater priority given to cooperation on public health, economic reopening, and people’s livelihood, and to deepen cooperation in areas such as trade, connectivity and digital economy.

“These initiatives and proposals meet China and Africa’s shared need for coordinating COVID-19 response and economic and social development and will play an exemplary role internationally.”

The envoy said the summit further demonstrated the strong mutual support underpinning the China-Africa relations.