China to Waive Some African Loan Payments Due This Year, Xi Says

(Bloomberg) -- China will waive some African nations’ debt and is willing to provide further support including loan-maturity extensions to free up funds needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, President Xi Jinping said.

The measures add to an initiative by the Group of 20 leading economies to suspend payments for low-income countries that have been pushed to the brink of insolvency by the disease. Speaking at a video conference with African leaders Wednesday, Xi urged creditors to do more, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

“China hopes that the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa,” he said.

Wednesday’s summit, also attended by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes as China tries to deflect criticism over its initial handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and garner global support for its response to the virus. Confirmed cases across Africa have surpassed 260,000, with more than 7,000 deaths.

The Chinese government will ensure that countries on the continent are “among the first to benefit” from any coronavirus vaccine it develops, Xi said, without providing further details.

Strained Ties

Ties between China and Africa became strained in April after some African businesspeople in Guangzhou said they were mistreated and discriminated against as the southern mainland city adopted stringent health management restriction for Africans.

African leaders alleged discrimination against their citizens by Guangzhou authorities in measures to stem the spread of imported cases, saying Africans were mistreated, evicted from hotels, and forcefully tested for Corvid-19. China rejected the claims and later vowed to ease health measures on Africans in the city.

“We oppose racial discrimination and ideological bias,” Xi said Wednesday. “We stand firm for equity and justice in the world.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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