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Zambia optimistic about securing a debt agreement in Paris

Zambia optimistic about securing a debt agreement in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on May 10, 2023.   -  
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Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema expressed confidence on Wednesday that his government would secure a plan to restructure his country's debt at talks in Paris this week with its creditors.

In 2020, the nation became the first country on the African continent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to default on its $18.6 billion foreign debt.

Zambia has sought help to restructure its debt through a G20 mechanism co-chaired by Paris and Beijing, but so far without convincing results.

Speaking to the media, President Hichilema, who is expected in France for an international summit on finance on Thursday and Friday, said he expected an agreement soon.

"The framework we should agree on in the next few days, and the presence of other (leaders) show our urgency to conclude", he declared.

According to him, his presence in France alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Chinese Premier Li Qiang should help speed up the process.

"It is our desire to conclude the restructuring of Zambian debt," he insisted. "It's been going on for too long," he added, comparing the debt to "a python that paralyzes the neck, ribs and legs" of his country.

The United States has accused Zambia's biggest creditor, China, of dragging its feet. According to a senior US Treasury official, however, "progress" has been made and "an agreement on official bilateral creditors is imminent".

A restructuring of Zambia's debt would represent a key step towards unlocking an International Monetary Fund aid package for the country.

The Paris Club, an informal group of creditors whose role is to find solutions to countries' debt repayment difficulties, began meeting on Wednesday on the eve of an international summit in the French capital aimed at reimagining the global financial system in the face of climate change.

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