China is now the world’s largest single country creditor and remains one of the largest bilateral lenders to African countries. African governments seem to prefer debt from China as compared to other lenders such as IMF and the World Bank. Notably, loan agreements between African countries and China have been shrouded with secrecy. This has in the past sparked debate, among Western countries and some African critics who argue that China is pursuing a strategy to deliberately indebt African countries with the end goal of controlling their major assets especially natural resources.
This brief seeks to provide a better understanding of Chinese lending in East Africa by utilizing new data on Chinese financing and investment on development projects in Africa which was made available to the public through the China Africa Research Initiative (SAIS-CARI) database.
The brief interrogates the volumes of Chinese debt, sectors financed by the loans and analyses the major Chinese financiers for five East African countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The brief also peeks into the trends in trade relations between China and the East African countries.
This brief adds to existing body of knowledge on Chinese lending to African countries and provides useful insights that can inform advocacy for better public debt management and encourage public debate on debt sustainability in the region.