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Kenya to ask China for a $1bn loan to restart work on stalled road projects

Kenya's President William Ruto will ask China for a $1 billion loan and a request to lengthen the maturity periods of existing loans when he travels to Beijing later this month.

Ruto's plan marks a shift in his stance on Chinese debt after his coalition criticised his predecessor's borrowing spree from China during last year's election campaign.

The Chinese loans, which stand at more than $8 billion, were used by former President Uhuru Kenyatta's government to construct infrastructure like roads, but many of these projects have since stalled after contractors left over unpaid bills.

Africa was a focus of President Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 to recreate the ancient Silk Road and extend China's geopolitical and economic influence through a global infrastructure development push.

But the surge in Chinese loans to countries like Kenya, before a slowdown in Chinese lending from 2019, has angered critics, pushed up debt loads and the subsequent repayment burden.

The Kenyan government is spending roughly half of its revenue to repay debts that are falling due, official data shows, straining its finances. The situation has been compounded by foreign debt repayments, amid a steep weakening of the Kenyan currency.

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