© Reuters. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gives a speech after she visited the House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves) at Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal January 21, 2023. REUTERS/Ngouda Dione
By Andrea Shalal
LUSAKA (Reuters) – U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday during a visit to Zambia that it was critically important to restructure Zambia’s debt, and she believed progress could be made after her frank talks with key creditor China last week.
Yellen added that Zambia’s debt overhang was a drag on its whole economy and that China had been a barrier to reaching a resolution on the southern African country’s debt problem.
However, she said she was encouraged that progress could become possible shortly following her meeting with Chinese officials in Zurich last week.
“I specifically raised the issue with Zambia (with Chinese officials) and asked for their cooperation in trying to reach a speedy resolution. And our talks were constructive,” Yellen said.
She said it was also critically important for Zambia to address corruption and human rights, and create a business environment that would promote investments and trade.
She said it was very important that President Hakainde Hichilema, who took charge in August 2021, had made addressing corruption an important part of his agenda and had logged some progress.
“It’s something that needs continued focus in dealing with ongoing problems that may exist,” she said. “I would say the work isn’t done, but there clearly has been an important focus on it.”
Yellen is on a three-country visit to Africa. In Senegal she said Russia’s war in Ukraine was hitting Africans particularly hard by exacerbating food insecurity and putting an unnecessary drag on the continent’s economy.