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Kenya’s Latest Economic Data is a Warning to Other Developing Countries With Large Chinese Debts and Trade Deficits

Exterior of Kenya's National Treasury building in Nairobi. Simon Mania/AFP

Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released grim new data this week that highlights the acute problems confronting developing countries with large Chinese trade deficits and debts, both of which increased substantially:

  • TRADE: The country’s trade deficit with China surged 15% to $3.6 billion in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2021. Despite promises from policymakers in both countries to remedy the trade imbalance, Kenya’s exports to China remain flat at around $127 million. This is by no means a problem unique to Kenya. Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, and dozens of other developing countries in Asia, the Americas, and Africa face a similar dynamic: they are spending dwindling hard currency reserves to pay for imported Chinese products at levels many experts see as unsustainable.

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