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International relations

African nations stare at defaults as debt to China swells

Zambia accused of putting Beijing first in deferment talks with creditors

CAIRO/BEIJING -- Zambia sits on the brink of Africa's first sovereign default since the coronavirus outbreak, amid accusations from commercial creditors that the country is prioritizing servicing its ballooning debt to China.

Zambia failed to make an interest payment on $42.5 million in dollar-denominated debt due Oct. 14, citing "liquidity difficulties compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic." Though there is a one-month grace period, the government is headed for an official default on Nov. 13 unless it can reach an accord with lenders, many of whom have refused to engage.

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