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Tanzania’s president asks China to forgive some outstanding debts

Tanzania's President John Magufuli addresses a news conference during his official visit to Nairobi, Kenya October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday requested China to forgive some of the East African nation’s debts, including one incurred 50 years ago for the construction of a railway to neighbouring Zambia.

The Tanzanian leader has in the past made the same request to other creditors. Last April, he asked international lenders like the World Bank to cancel debts to African nations, to give them fiscal room to battle the coronavirus.

Magufuli said he had presented the request to visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as the two witnessed the signing of a deal for the construction of a 341 km rail line by two Chinese firms.

“He will get our request to China so that they can see how they can forgive our debts because according to their concession laws it is very difficult to forgive debts,” the president said.

He did not say the total amount of outstanding debt he wanted forgiven by China.

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Tanzania spends 700 billion shillings (about $300 million) every month to service its debts, with close to 200 billion shillings going to the World Bank, Magufuli said last year.

China is a close economic partner of Tanzania and Magufuli asked the Chinese government to consider funding the construction of a section of its planned new modern rail.

Magufuli, who was re-elected to a second, five-year term last October, is building several infrastructure projects.

($1 = 2,314 Tanzanian shillings)

Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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