Zambia defends ties with China amid debt-asset swap claims

Friday September 14 2018

Zambian President Edgar Lungu. PHOTO | AFP

Zambian President Edgar Lungu. PHOTO | AFP 

By MICHAEL CHAWE
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Zambian President Edgar Lungu has defended his country’s ties with China amid reports that some parastatals have been offered as collateral for Chinese loans.

“Our friendship with China is mutual and no amount of malicious propaganda will deter us from the opportunities that lie in what we share," he told MPs in Parliament on Friday.

"I urge everyone to remain focused and not be moved by the ongoing mischaracterised information suggesting that our friendship with China suggest colonialism," he said, adding that "China has never been known for such!”

On Thursday, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakwate dismissed media reports that Zambia was offering its electricity firm, broadcaster, and the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to China as security against loans.

“The Zambian Government has not offered any state-owned enterprise to any lender as collateral for any borrowing,” Ms Mwanakatwe said.

She also dismissed claims that the government was exploring debt/asset swap options.

China is funding major infrastructure projects in Zambia among them the $300 million upgrade of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

Beijing has invested more than $2 billion in Zambia’s mining, agriculture, service and housing sectors. It has also built multimillion-dollar stadia, schools and road network.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the country is at a high risk of debt distress.

As at March this year, Zambia’s outstanding debt stood at $9.3 billion, having risen from $8.7 billion at the end of 2017.