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Lusaka Is Drowning in Chinese Debt

Zambia’s debt to Chinese public and private lenders is $6.6bn, almost double the amount disclosed by the previous Zambian government, an analysis of loan data by the China Africa Research Initiative (Cari) has estimated. Zambia’s previous government led by Edgar Lungu said its Chinese debt stood at $3.4bn. But the estimate published by Cari on Tuesday chimes with recent comments from newly elected President Hakainde Hichilema, who took office in August, that the debt load is likely higher. The country’s international creditors, which the government is in talks with, have complained that the lack of detail on Zambia’s China loans — which carry specific non-disclosure terms — has hindered the debt restructuring process. Tuesday’s study estimated that $7.77bn in loans to Zambia and its state-owned enterprises were disbursed by 18 major and minor Chinese banks or funds from 2000 to August 2021. Of those, Zambia has repaid at least $1.2bn.