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President Uhuru calls on China to deepen debt relief measures

By Fredrick Obura | Jun 18th 2020 | 3 min read
By Fredrick Obura | June 18th 2020
Leaders at the extra-ordinary China-Africa Summit on solidarity against Covid-19 (PHOTO: PSCU)

President Uhuru Kenyatta has appealed for more economic interventions from China to help Africa navigate through the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kenyan Head of State identified loss of jobs and reduction of revenues as key impacts of Covid-19 on African economies and appealed for more economic interventions by China.

"Given the scale of economic devastation in the continent, I would like to call on China to further deepen debt relief measures and to consider trade concessions, to provide African countries with the breathing room they need for economic recovery," Uhuru said.

He made the request at an extra-ordinary China-Africa Summit on solidarity against Covid-19.

The virtual summit was convened by China, South Africa, and Senegal. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is the current Chairperson of the African Union while Senegal's Macky Sall is the Co-Chairperson of the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC).

President Xi said China's support for Africa during the current health crisis will include debt relief in line with the G20 moratorium and the FOCAC framework.

Also top of the Chinese help for Africa will be the fast-tracking of the construction of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) headquarters and support for projects aimed at enhancing intra-Africa connectivity.

In order to aid African economies to recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic, the Chinese leader said his government will support programmes aimed at strengthening value chains on the continent.

Kenya, which owes China Sh725 billion in bilateral debt as at end of last year, had earlier declined to participate in a similar group of 20 nations (G-20) led debt relief initiative, saying the terms were too restrictive.

The Chinese government early June announced that it had agreed to delay loan repayments for 77 low-income countries as part of the G20 nations’ debt relief programmme.

The temporary relief to poor nations was meant to enable them to weather the Covid-19 pandemic, with the moratorium starting May 1. No details have been provided on the terms of the debt relief that China would offer to the 77 countries.

Early June, Treasury CS Ukur Yattani told Standard Digital that Kenya is still negotiating for a debt relief deal with China.

“The bilateral engagements are still on,” Yatani said.

During the Wednesday summit, President Xi Jinping congratulated Kenya for ensuring the uninterrupted flow of cargo from the Port of Mombasa into the East African hinterland via the Standard Gauge Railway.

The decision by Kenya, the Chinese leader said, had helped keep trade flowing in the region despite the cargo movement restrictions occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures.

Speaking on behalf of the East African Community (EAC) where he is the current Chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame thanked the Chinese government for committing 2 billion US Dollars to the global fight against Covid-19 over the next two years.

The African Union Chairperson and co-convenor of the virtual summit President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said the continent had acted decisively and in unison in its response to Covid-19.

He said the continent will on Thursday launch the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), an online portal that will enable African countries to access large quantities of critical Covid-19 response supplies at competitive prices.

The South African leader called on the Chinese government to consider supporting African nations with six months’ worth of equipment and other supplies through the AMSP. The AMSP is supported by the Afrexim Bank.

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