Tanzania asks China to write off some outstanding debts

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Tanzanian President John Magufuli

TANZANIAN President John Magufuli on Friday asked China to forgive some of the East African nation’s debts, including one incurred 50 years ago for the construction of a railway to neighbouring Zambia.

The Tanzanian leader has in the past made the same request to other creditors. In April 2020, he asked international lenders such as the World Bank to cancel debts to African nations, to give them fiscal room to battle the coronavirus.

Magufuli said he had presented the request to visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, as the two witnessed the signing of a deal for the construction of a 341km rail line by two Chinese firms.

‘He will get our request to China so that they can see how they can forgive our debts because according to their concession laws it is very difficult to forgive debts,’ the president said.

He did not say the total amount of outstanding debt he wanted forgiven by China.

Tanzania spends TSh700bn  (about $300 million) every month to service its debts, with close to 200-billion shillings going to the World Bank, Magufuli said in 2020.

China is a close economic partner of Tanzania and Magufuli asked the Chinese government to consider funding the construction of a section of its planned new modern rail.

Magufuli, who was re-elected to a second, five-year term in October 2020, is building several infrastructure projects.

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