Yellen urges swift conclusion to Zambia debt talks

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The United States pledged Monday (Jan. 23) to press Zambia's creditors for relief from the Southern African country's massive defaulted debt as it tries to restructure its loans.

"We will continue to press for significant participation by major creditors, both bilateral and private sector, in providing debt relief to Zambia, particularly China," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, visiting Lusaka as part of a 10-day trip to Africa.

The "treatment of Zambia's debt is a top priority for the Treasury," she added after a meeting with Zambian Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane.

She also met with President Hakainde Hichilema. Hichilema said he hopes the country's debt restructuring will be completed in the next two months: "Until we resolve this issue, it will distort the progress we have made so far.

In 2020, Zambia became the first African country to default on its foreign debt - estimated at $17.3 billion - since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its debt had exploded under Edgar Lungu, who borrowed massively to finance a frenzy of infrastructure projects during his six years in office.

President Hichilema, elected in 2021 on promises to root out corruption and resuscitate the economy, has improved the country's relations with its creditors and international donors.

The US is trying to regain influence in Africa, the scene of fierce economic and political competition among major powers.

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