The African nation made it’s international bond market debut in 2012 and is now seeking repayment delays, the Zambian government announced.
The government asked holders of its three eurobonds, worth a total of $3 billion, to defer interest payments worth almost $120 million until April 2021.
This makes Zambia the first African country to default on it’s payments since the Covid-19 pandemic began at the start of this year.
President Edgar Lungu’s government said on Tuesday that it was seeking “the suspension of debt service payments for a period of six months” from holders of its $3bn worth of international bonds, beginning in October.
The government placed blame for the default on a combination of declining revenues—partially driven by decreases in the price of copper, a natural resource that makes up 70 percent of Zambia’s export earnings—and increasing unbudgeted costs caused by the pandemic.
Because of the default, Fitch Ratings downgraded Zambia’s credit rating to “C” from “CC.”
Zambia, which is the second largest producer of copper in Africa, owes much of it’s debt to China.
Mr Lungu’s government blamed “a combination of declining revenues and increased unbudgeted costs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic” for the need to stop payments.
Pandemic costs had “resulted in a material impact on the government’s available resources to make timely payments on its indebtedness leading to increasing debt servicing difficulties”, it added.
The country is looking towards the IMF for a bailout but has yet to confirm this.
Zambia has recorded about 14,000 cases and slightly more than 300 deaths from the pandemic to date.
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