China’s Foreign Minster Qin Gang rejects Africa debt trap accusations

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China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang rejected accusations that the money his nation lends to Africa is a “debt trap,” a swipe at statements US officials have made repeatedly.

“China’s contribution is concrete in bettering the lives of African people,” Qin said through an interpreter in a speech in Ethiopia, where the African Union is headquartered, on Wednesday while on his first foreign trip since his appointment. “We don’t accept the unreasonable label of debt trap.”

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China accounts for about 12 percent of Africa’s external debt of around $700 billion, with Zambia and Ghana, both of whom have defaulted on their debt obligations, among its biggest creditors on the continent, according to London-based international affairs policy institute Chatham House. Still, its lending has funded an infrastructure boom in many African nations.

Qin, citing World Bank data, said that multilateral lenders account for three quarters of Africa’s external debt and should play a bigger role in resolving payment issues. Sub-Saharan Africa’s external debt-servicing costs will likely rise 50 percent by 2026 from 2019 levels and as many as 18 of the continent’s 54 nations will struggle to pay what they owe, according to the Paris-based Finance for Development Lab.

Qin also called for better relations between the US and China, the world’s two biggest economies and dominant political powers, saying the nations should cooperate and co-exist peacefully rather than compete.

“No country, no people have the right to force the African countries and people to take sides, he said. “Africa should be a big stage for international cooperation, not an arena for major countries’ competition,” he said.

Qin is also visiting Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt on his trip.

Read more: Yellen says China a ‘barrier’ in African debt relief

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