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Zambian President Hichilema's $6bn debt deal hailed as 'historic'





Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the outlines of a deal aimed at lifting his country out of its debt crisis have been unveiled.


In 2020, the copper-rich country became the first African nation to default on its debt payments during the Covid pandemic. It was burdened by loans and high interest rates that severely restricted the government's ability to invest in critical social programmes and infrastructure development, both crucial for economic growth.


Following months of talks, Zambia has now successfully agreed new repayment terms with its state creditors on up to $6.3bn (£5bn) debt, including over $4bn owed to China.


There had been frustration for Zambia as negotiations have been slow, with some blaming China for the delay - something that Beijing denied.


France's President Emmanuel Macron, who played a pivotal role in persuading China to agree, hailed the deal as "historic". It is thought that it could pave the way for other debt-ridden countries to follow suit.


"But the hard work is not over yet," Mr Hichilema said on Twitter, recognising that the more than $6bn owed to private lenders still needs to be tackled.


His election in 2021 was partly based on a promise to tackle the country's financial woes, inherited from his two predecessors, Michael Sata and Edgar Lungu, who had allowed Zambia to take on significant loans to finance infrastructure projects.


Though some of that money was invested, it is thought that a lot was lost to corruption.

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