Chinese Debt in Africa: How Much Is Too Much?

A China in Africa Podcast

China now owns more than half of Kenya’s external debt, and that figure is likely to grow even higher as President Uhuru Kenyatta turns to Beijing to finance large infrastructure projects across the country. Most recently, China completed the first phase of the highly-anticipated Standard Gauge Railway, a 420-kilometer passenger and cargo line that that connects Nairobi with the port of Mombasa. This new railway is the first major upgrade to Kenya’s dilapidated rail infrastructure since the British built the infamous “Lunatic Express” in the mid 19th century.

While there was understandable excitement about this new, more modern railway, critics charge that the $3.2 billion price tag was simply too high. Nairobi-based international development economist Anzetse Were is among those who see a worrying trend of African countries such as Kenya binging on Chinese loans in a manner not seen since the debt crises of the 1980s and 1990s. Anzetse joins Eric and Cobus from Nairobi to explain why she’s worried that African states are not rapidly reforming their economies so as to generate the revenues needed to repay the billions of dollars in Chinese loans.