Zambia denies White House claim China taking over power utility

Zambia denies White House claim China taking over power utility

Saturday, December 15, 2018 8:12 pm

President Edgar Lungu of Zambia

Zambia has denied  a claim by a White House official that China is about to take over its state power utility to recover six to 10 billion dollars debt.

The country noted the utility was never provided as collateral and its debt to Beijing was only 3.1 billion dollars.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton had said on Thursday that China’s quest for more power in Africa was evident in nations such as Zambia.

”China was poised to take over Zambia’s utility company, Zesco, to collect the debt, White House claims.

Zambia’s Presidential Spokesman Amos Chanda told media that the figure of between six and 10 billion dollars given by Bolton was wrong.

He said Zambia’s total external debt was  9.7 billion dollars including 3.1 billion dollars owed to China.

“It is regrettable that such information can come from such a high-ranking official. In fact, Zesco is not within the scheme of Zambia’s debt to China,” he added.

Chanda said Zambia valued its relations with both China and the U.S., and would not deal with either of them exclusively.

Bolton had called the business practices of China and Russia in Africa “corrupt” and “predatory”, saying that the U.S. planned to counter their economic and political influences.

In June, Zambia decided to delay all planned borrowing indefinitely, slowing down the accumulation of new debt amid worries about the risk of debt distress.

President Edgar Lungu said last month that  Zambia was  committed to improving the transparency of its debt management and would ensure that debt levels remained sustainable.

The IMF rejected Zambia’s borrowing plans in February, saying it risked making its debt load harder to sustain.

Finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said last month that the government planned to send a delegation to China by the end of 2018 to discuss Zambia’s debt and debt restructuring. (Reuters/NAN)

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