President Ruto of Kenya is to use his visit to Beijing later this month to ask China for a $1bn loan to restart work on stalled road projects.
He will also request a lengthening of the repayment period of existing loans, which total around $8bn, or 13% of the country’s external debt.
The information was given by Rigathi Gachagua, Ruto’s deputy, during an interview with the Inooro FM radio station, later reported by Reuters.
Gachagua said the president would ask the Chinese government if Kenya could “talk to you to see if you can add us time, so we can pay slowly, and add us a little money so we can finish road construction?”
Ruto, who became president in September last year, criticised his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, for his borrow-to-build policy. Kenya’s external debt increased more than four-fold to $63.6bn during Kenyatta’s 10-year reign.
According to Reuters, the cabinet ordered all ministries to cut 10% off their budgets on Tuesday, and the president’s office imposed some restrictions on foreign travel by government officials.
As GCR reported in March (see further reading), requests such as Ruto’s have become increasingly common in recent years.
In 2010, less than 5% of Beijing’s overseas lending supported borrowers in distress; that figure soared to 60% by 2022. Nearly 80% of China’s rescue lending was issued between 2016 and 2021, the study found.
China has since responded to the growth of debt distress by moving away from infrastructure lending and expanding liquidity support.