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China-Africa 101: China’s Role in Africa’s Debt

One of the most talked-about issues in Africa-China relations today is debt. Africa is borrowing heavily from China and many observers worry that African governments do not have the capability to pay it back. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s trillion-dollar effort to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa through a network of infrastructure, is also frowned upon for the debt that it could saddle nations with.

The Center for Global Development recently analyzed the debt problems of 68 countries identified as BRI borrowers and found that eight countries are at particular risk of distress. Djibouti, the site of China’s first and only military base, is one of these countries. The Center notes that according to the IMF, Djibouti’s public external debt leaped from 50 percent to 85 percent of its GDP in just a couple of years. Much of the debt is apparently owed to the China Exim Bank.

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