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FACTBOX-Sudan's external debt burden

CAIRO, June 29 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund announced on Tuesday that Sudan could begin negotiating relief on debt of more than $50 billion through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) process.

Debt relief is a crucial step for Sudan, which sits in a volatile region between the Horn of Africa and North Africa, in its attempts to recover from a deep economic crisis and re-enter the global economy after decades of isolation.


Sudan’s debt totalled at least $50 billion as of the end of 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The country is still working with creditors to reconcile its debt up to the end of last year, and officials say the final total could be as high $60 billion.

According to the IMF, $5.6 billion was owed to multilateral organizations including itself, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank (ADB). An estimated $19 billion is owed to Paris Club creditors, of whom France, Austria and the United States are the largest.

A similar amount is owed to non-Paris Club countries, including Kuwait, Sudan’s largest creditor at $9.8 billion, Saudi Arabia and China. Finally, Sudan holds what an IMF official says is an unusually high amount of debt to commercial lenders, estimated at at least $6 billion.

As Sudan was cut off from the international system for decades, about 85% of its debt is arrears - unpaid interest and penalties.


After Sudan’s removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list in late 2020, Sudan became eligible for the HIPC programme, which provides debt relief for low-income nations. Under the programme, Sudan’s creditors come to an agreement to restructure and forgive debt.

Sudan’s debt is the biggest to be tackled through HIPC to date and progress so far has been swift, an IMF official said.

While HIPC may take until 2024, a Sudanese official said creditors could quickly lift a large part of the burden by forgiving most of Sudan’s arrears after the “decision point” announced on Tuesday.

However, after that decision point Sudan will have to start making debt service payments.

The country’s arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank, and IMF have already been cleared through bridge loans which the country will not have to repay.

To get here, Sudan undertook IMF-monitored economic reforms, removing fuel subsidies and sharply devaluing its currency.

It must undertake further economic and governance reforms to reach an HIPC “completion point” after an estimated three years, at which stage the IMF said Sudan’s debt was expected to have fallen to around $6 billion.


Through debt relief, Sudan opens up its lines of credit with multilateral organizations and other countries, allowing it to receive new grants and loans at low or zero interest.

That financing is badly needed since Sudan has been stuck in a prolonged economic crisis that triggered an uprising against former President Omar al-Bashir, toppled in April 2019.

Sudan is in a fragile political transition, with the military and civilians sharing power until the end of 2023.

It has already received a commitment of a grant of $2 billion to be spent over the coming two years as a result of clearing its World Bank arrears, as well as a $207 million grant from the ADB.

The IMF announced it would start a $2.5 billion, 39-month extended credit facility for new financing, to be disbursed as the country executes further reforms. (Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Aidan Lewis Editing by William Maclean and Matthew Lewis)