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China extends debt relief to DR Congo amid COVID-19 crisis

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi

The Democratic Republic of the Congo says China has offered some debt relief in a bid to ease pressure on the central African country ravaged by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Congolese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that as a result, the DR Congo would not have to repay its interest-free loans from China that matured at the end of 2020, without specifying sums.

The deal was announced at a joint press conference in the capital, 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.

China has extended debt relief worth over $2bn to developing countries under a Group of 20 (G20) framework in an attempt to help them overcome economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University’s China Africa Research Initiative, Chinese entities have extended 53 loans to the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2000 and 2018, amounting to a total of $2.4bn. Most of the lending was focused 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.

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

While the Central African country boasts of mineral deposits estimated to be worth trillions of dollars, the resources have fueled a never-ending war that has left millions dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, and children and women facing grievous human rights abuses.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has one of the highest rates of internal displacement in the world, according to the United Nations (UN).

Over five million people within the country’s borders have been uprooted by insecurity, while nearly a million more have sought safety in neighboring countries as refugees.

The top UN relief official, Mark Lowcock, has already warned that the first famines of the coronavirus era could soon hit the Central African nation.

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