March 11, 2019 / 2:56 PM / 3 months ago

Zambia external debt rose to over $10 billion at end 2018: finance minister

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia’s external debt rose to $10.05 billion at the end of last year from $8.74 billion at the end of 2017, Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said on Monday.

Mwanakatwe said in a statement that the rise was due to increased disbursements on previously contracted loans for infrastructure projects aimed at supporting economic diversification.

Zambia’s foreign debt includes money that it raised through Eurobonds and other loans from bilateral and multilateral partners.

Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer and mining is the mainstay of the nation’s economy, accounting to more than 70 percent of its foreign exchange earnings.

Zambia’s copper production increased to 850,000 tonnes in 2018 from 797,000 tonnes the previous year due to continued investment in the sector and favourable prices, Mwanakatwe said.

She said external debt servicing last year reached $759.9 million and government guaranteed debt stood at $1.3 billion.

Zambia plans to swap its Chinese debt - which accounts for about a third of its foreign debt - from dollars to yuan in a bid to ease pressure on foreign reserves, Mwanakatwe said last week.

Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Alison Williams

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