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No Debt Trap
African leaders reject Western criticism of falling into so-called China’s debt trap
ChinAfrica  ·2018-11-30

At a time when some Western critics are busy hyping the "Chinese debt trap" theory, which refers to loans to African countries and other emerging economies, those nations who are benefiting from the win-win cooperation with China have refuted the criticism.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta recently spoke with CNN's Richard Quest and asked why critics only focus on Kenya's debt to China, while other countries that have lent money to Kenya go unchallenged.  

"Why are we focusing ourselves only on one lender?" Kenyatta asked. 

"As far as I am concerned, we have a very healthy mix of debt from the multilateral lenders - who are basically the World Bank and the African Development Bank - to bilateral lenders like Japan, China and France, all who are participating and working with us to help us achieve our objectives," he added. 

Quest said that the key issue was not the usage of borrowed money but who was the lender. 

"We are borrowing from China. We have borrowed from the United States. We are working together with companies like General Electric who are the backbone of what we are doing in our health sector. When it comes to energy, we are working very closely with the World Bank and the African Development Bank," Kenyatta explained in response to tough questions. 

On the question that China may use debt to influence African countries, Kenyatta said the Kenyan perspective is that “we have a development agenda; we have a social agenda; we have an economic agenda, and we are willing to partner with all countries that help us achieve our objective." 

Kenyatta is not the only African leader to reject criticism of China’s development projects on the continent, particularly China’s Belt and Road Initiative, often cited by critics as the vehicle that is worsening debt problems in some countries. 

Speaking at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in September this year, Senegalese President Macky Sall said, "Everything we do with China is perfectly under control, including on the financial and debt side. We shouldn't let our conscience be disturbed by criticism made regarding the nature of our relations with China.” 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who also attended the FOCAC Summit, also stressed that his country’s relations with China fall within relevant economic plans of the government and that Nigeria was not being trapped by Chinese money. “Let me use this opportunity to address and dispel insinuations about a so-called Chinese ‘debt trap.’ These vital infrastructure projects being funded are perfectly in line with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan. Some of the debts, it must be noted, are self-liquidating,” he said. 

Buhari added that Nigeria was fully able to repay all its loans as and when due.  

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa took the opportunity to comment on the debt issue on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September this year. He dismissed the fears that Zimbabwe could fall into a trap with Chinese debt. “During [Zimbabwe’s] period of isolation, very few countries outside the West assisted us. Some of the notable countries which came to our assistance are China, India, Brazil, Russia and Malaysia. And when things are good, you then do not forget your friend who stood with you during bad times,” he said. 

Mnangagwa gave the example of the expansion of Kariba South and Hwange power stations, which are financed with Chinese capital. “I do not see any danger where you have a project which becomes productive in terms of revenue streams to pay for itself,” he said.  

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who chairs the African Union, is equally critical of observers warning of debt traps in Africa, saying the question to be asked should be why other countries are not giving Africa as much assistance as China? 

“We have benefited a lot from China’s support in our social and economic programs, and that has continued to strengthen the partnership between China and Rwanda,” Kagame told the People’s Daily. 

Kagame also hailed forums like FOCAC, which he said “can show the world how countries can work collaboratively at a time when issues like trade protectionism continue to brew.” 

(Compiled by ChinAfrica)

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