Kenyas debt struggles go far deeper than Chinese loans

From: Chatham House
Published: Thu Jun 01 2023


Alleged cyberattacks spotlight China's role in Kenya's debt problems, but must not be allowed to overshadow the country's broader failings in its financing.

Despite recent claims of a Chinese state-linked hacking team carrying out systematic cyber-attacks on Kenyan government institutions being denounced by Kenya's Ministry of Interior as ‘sponsored propaganda', Kenya's debt burden to China is under scrutiny once again as the alleged attacks were reportedly driven by a desire to assess the status of repayments.

It is true that lending by China surged in the early years of the Uhuru Kenyatta administration from 2013-2022 - while current president William Ruto was serving as deputy - dominated by $5.3 billion in three loans from China EXIM Bank for the construction of a standard gauge railway (SGR) project connecting the port of Mombasa with the capital Nairobi.

The fear among Kenyan media and the public has been that the strategic Mombasa Port was posted as collateral for these loans, feeding accusations of China indulging in ‘debt-trap diplomacy' both in Kenya and across the continent - and the hacking reports risk re-igniting this controversy around Chinese lending.

The reports have also surfaced just as the Kenyan government attempts to push through unpopular austerity measures to manage a mounting debt repayment crisis. Although Chinese lending is substantial, it is far from the whole story.

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Company: Chatham House

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