Democratic Republic of Congo says China has granted pandemic-linked debt relief

A Congolese man buys groceries at an open air market, amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

KINSHASA (Reuters) - China has granted some debt relief to Democratic Republic of Congo to help it overcome economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the Congolese foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

As a result, Congo will not have to repay its interest-free loans from China that matured at the end of 2020. The ministry did not say how much this amounted to.

China has extended debt relief worth over $2 billion to developing countries under a G20 framework aimed at giving those hammered by the COVID-19 crisis some financial breathing space.

The latest deal was announced at a joint press conference in Kinshasa with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“As Congo’s most reliable friend, China wishes to continue to make its contribution to Congo’s development,” Wang was quoted as saying in the Congolese ministry’s statement.

According to data gathered by the Johns Hopkins China Africa Research Initiative, Chinese entities have extended 53 loans to the Democratic Republic of Congo between 2000-2018, amounting to a total of $2.4 billion. Most of the lending was focussed on the power, transport and mining sectors.

The major cobalt and copper producer has attracted billions of dollars in investment from Chinese miners in recent years.

Congo’s exports to China surged 30% in 2020 compared with the previous year.

Reporting by Stanis Bujakera, additional reporting by Karin Strohecker in London; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Bate Felix and Bernadette Baum