Uganda seeks $500 million loan from China for road infrastructure

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Amid bankruptcy from over borrowing, Uganda is said to have asked China for a $500 million loan to help build almost 600 km of roads in the country’s oil-rich west. Amid bankruptcy from over borrowing, Uganda is said to have asked China for a $500 million loan to help build almost 600 km of roads in the country’s oil-rich west.

Amid bankruptcy from over borrowing, Uganda is said to have asked China for a $500 million loan to help build almost 600 km of roads in the country’s oil-rich west.

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Uganda has discovered an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude reserves on its Albertine rift basin along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

However, lack of infrastructures, such as roads and an export pipeline, as well as disagreements between the government and international oil companies over taxes, have led to production delays.

The Uganda National Roads Authority needs the money to build 580 kilometres of roads around the area, said Mark Ssali, Head of Public and Corporate Affairs at the state-run UNRA.

“There have been some contacts with Exim Bank (of China) for the loan,” he says in an interview on Wednesday. “But we are currently procuring a Chinese contractor, which is a precondition for any concrete talks with Exim.”

With plans to instigate an oil production in 2020, a pipeline through neighbouring Tanzania is set for completion.

China has extended large lines of credit to Uganda in recent years, mostly for infrastructure, including power plants, roads and an airport refurbishment. Officials have also said they are seeking $2.3 billion to build a standard gauge railway.

Government critics and the opposition say the appetite for Chinese credit risks is dragging the country back into the deep indebtedness of the mid-2000s.

“Given the accelerated borrowing and misuse of loans, we’re likely to go back into debt distress,” said Julius Kapwepwe, Director of programs at Uganda Debt Network, a think tank that tracks Uganda’s public debt. “We might start begging for debt forgiveness again.”

According to Central Bank of Uganda data, the country’s total external debt stood at $10.3 billion in May last year, compared with $3.8 billion in the financial year ended June 2013.

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