Debt cancellation deal for Zambia!

For nearly four years, Zambia has been stuck in negotiations to bring down debt levels that have destroyed the country’s economy. Finally, this week we learnt the groundbreaking news that most of Zambia’s private lenders have agreed to a deal that could reduce the government’s repayments by up to $1.4 billion!  

This is a hugely significant development in which Debt Justice campaigners, standing alongside those in Zambia and around the world, have played an important role. Over the last two years, thousands of us have signed petitions, emailed our MPs, turned up to protest outside the offices of financial giant BlackRock, and taken to social media.

Debt Justice campaigners take part in a stunt outside financial giant BlackRock’s offices in 2022

Zambia first applied for debt restructuring back in 2020 but – mainly because financial giants like BlackRock held out for a deal that would deliver them more profit – it has taken years for an agreement to be reached. And while Zambia was stuck in limbo, the government has struggled to fund health, education or respond to the climate emergency. As Zambian debt activist Precious Kalombwana explains: 

“Here it is very difficult to go to the hospital and find medicine, people are dying, because of lack of medicine. We are living in a country where it’s so scary. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow […] because of debt.” 

Precious Kalombwana

Most of Zambia’s private lenders have now agreed to this deal, which will reduce debt payments by 45% – but even now, private lenders are still getting repaid more than governments like the UK and China. So while we’re celebrating the news of this debt deal, we know there’s much more to be done. 

With 54 countries in debt crisis it’s clear that the international processes to support countries in debt are failing. That’s why we need a new debt justice law – to stop greedy lenders from dragging out negotiations in the name of profit while millions are denied justice. 

But for now, we’re celebrating the news of this debt deal which will have a real impact on the lives of millions of people in Zambia. It may have taken years to achieve, but the news this week shows that when we stand united, we can help make greedy lenders cancel the debt.  

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