Zambia owes nearly $27 billion in foreign and local public debt

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Zambia’s total public debt to foreign and local lenders was just shy of $27 billion at the end of June, the Finance Ministry revealed on Wednesday.

The figure was equal to about 115% of GDP, according to the latest World Bank figures from 2019, and could be more because Zambia’s economy contracted sharply last year.

The figures published by the ministry on its website include $16.86 billion in foreign holdings, of which $520 million is interest arrears. Zambia became Africa’s first COVID-19 pandemic-era sovereign default at the end of last year.

The remaining $10.1 billion was local currency debt, the figures showed.

President Hakainde Hichilema won a landslide election

victory in August, beating incumbent Edgar Lungu, in part on a promise to clean up corruption and untangle its myriad debt woes.

His Cabinet has since sought to bring debts accumulated under the former administration to light, so that the southern African country can get IMF emergency relief.

“In line with its commitment for greater transparency, the Ministry of National Planning and Finance of Zambia has published a detailed summary of debt figures as of end-June 2021,” a statement from the ministry said.

Zambia’s foreign debt is spread across diverse regions, with a %6 billion chunk owed to China and rest owed to various banks, nations and multilateral institutions.

Reporting by Tim Cocks; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler