Moscow has written off more than $20 billion in debt accumulated by African countries during the Soviet era, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday.
“It was not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism, because many of the African states were not able to pay interest on these loans,” Putin told TASS on the eve of the summit.
While addressing the Russia-Africa forum in Sochi, he called for trade between Russia and African countries to be doubled in the next four to five years.
Putin also said that Russia intends to increase its presence in Africa at state level. The first-ever Russia-Africa Summit brought more than 50 African leaders to Sochi.
Speaking with the state-run TASS news agency, Putin said that developing mutually beneficial ties with African countries is among Russia’s top foreign policy priorities.
Ethiopia’s $163.6 million debt will soon be written off under Russia’s debt-for-development program, he said. Mozambique, Madagascar and Tanzania have already had their debts canceled under this program.
Below is an overview of African countries that have had their debts to Russia written off in recent years:
Debt: $ 163.6 million
Ethiopia’s debt is expected to be canceled under Russia’s debt-for-development program. The program assumes that debt cancellation is made in exchange for privileges such as expanding business opportunities for Russian companies, access to natural resources and building strategic economic ties.
Debt: $40 million
In 2017, Russia forgave Mozambique’s $40 million debt. The decision was made under the UN World Food Program (WFP) to free up resources for humanitarian development.
David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, said this debt swap is the largest in WFP history and is expected to provide meals to 150,000 children in Mozambique over a five-year period.
Debt: $89 million
In 2015, Russia signed a decree forgiving $89 million of Madagascar’s debts to Moscow, directing this money to be used for development projects in the country. The action was part of the G8’s decision to aid the world’s poorest countries.
Tanzania was one of the first African countries to have its debt canceled under Russia’s debt-for-development program in the early 2000s. Putin called the move “not only an act of generosity, but also a manifestation of pragmatism.”