The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Thursday said they had taken a next historic step toward forgiveness of Somalia’s $5.3 billion (Sh530 billion) in debt, with a final decision possible by the end of March.

The executive boards of the two institutions agreed at their respective meetings on February 12 and 13 that the East African country is eligible for assistance under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, based on a preliminary assessment.

“This assessment is an important step towards forgiveness of most of Somalia’s debt, which measured $5.3 billion (Sh530 billion) at the end of 2018,” they said in a joint statement.

Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Beileh welcomed the news and said Somalia would press on with its reforms.

“It’s indeed a historic moment,” Beileh said on Twitter. “Proud day. We remain committed to reforms and sustainable development.” Beileh in October told Reuters his country would press ahead with poverty reduction efforts and a major regional ports and corridors initiative if the debt forgiveness process continued as expected.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the decisions provided “a clear recognition of Somalia’s sustained commitment to key economic and financial reforms” under challenging circumstances. “Helping Somalia achieve debt relief and unlock access to the needed resources to increase growth and reduce poverty is a key priority for the IMF,” she said in the joint statement.