Private Western lenders create most of African debt burden, report shows
Chinese workers and their Angola counterparts at a construction site in Angola, 2015. /CFP

Chinese workers and their Angola counterparts at a construction site in Angola, 2015. /CFP

Facts go contrary with the West's rhetoric that China is responsible for the lion's share of Africa's debt burden.

Britain-based charity Debt Justice released a research report on July 11, showing that the debt African governments owe to Western banks, asset managers and oil traders is three times to China and they are charged double the interest.

Twelve percent of African governments' external debt is owed to Chinese lenders compared to 35 percent owed to Western private lenders, and the average interest rate on private loans is five percent, compared to 2.7 percent on loans from Chinese public and private lenders, the report said.

Those facts lay bare the absurdity of the so-called "debt-trap diplomacy" that has been touted by Western politicians to smear China, experts have said.

Beatrice Matiri-Maisori, a senior economics lecturer at Kenya's Riara University, said the figures and percentages mentioned above indicate that Africa's external debt is largely owed to private financial groups, Eurobonds, and oil creditors.

"The debt trap diplomacy has got nothing to do with the reality of the debt structure in Africa," she said.

Charles Onunaiju, director of Nigeria-based Center for China Studies, said the debt trap issue has always been political slander and the narrative is nothing but a distraction to absolve the West of its responsibilities.

Official data showed that China ranked first among the Group of 20 members in terms of debt deferral amounts.

"China has done quite a lot in terms of agreeing to come to a common agreement with over 19 countries in Africa, reaching a common understanding on how they are going to pursue debt relief for the same," Matiri-Maisori said.

China will waive the 23 interest-free loans for 17 African countries that had matured by the end of 2021, said State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Coordinators' Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of The Eighth Ministerial Conference of The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on August 18, 2022.

China keeps its word with real actions, and will continue to take meeting Africa's needs as the purpose of our cooperation with Africa, Wang said, adding that China will work with Africa to advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

Over the years, China's financing support for Africa, particularly in the field of infrastructure investment, has won wide applause from African governments and people, especially at a time when the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Area is being promoted.

"We are seeing connectivity, we are seeing airports remodeling, and we are seeing ports remodeling," Onunaiju said, adding that China's support for Africa can be clearly felt in different areas.

(With input from Xinhua)

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