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Kenya's external debt grew four times in a decade - World Bank

In Summary
  • It grew from Sh876 billion in 2009 to Sh3.4 trillion last year
  • The country's total public debt is currently at Sh7.o6 trillion, two trillion shy to Sh9.1 trillion limit set last year. 
The Treasury Building. Senate, National Assembly feud over funds for counties.
TREASURY BUILDING: The Treasury Building. Senate, National Assembly feud over funds for counties.
Image: FILE:

Kenya is among highest accumulators of external debt, the International Debt Statistics 2021 by the World Bank Shows.

The report, which analysed external debt accumulation by 120 low and middle income countries between 2009 and 2019 shows that Kenya’s external debt grew four times, among the highest in the series.

According to the report, the total external debt grew to $34.2 billion (Sh3.48 trillion) last year from $8.55 (Sh872.1 billion) in 2009; only second to Ethiopia whose external debt grew almost five-fold during the decade.

 

Other countries in the continent with high external debts are Nigeria, Angola and Zambia.

The report shows, Kenya’s external debt stock ratio to exports grew from 49 per cent in 2009 to 146 per cent, indicating tough repayment hurdles.

The ratio of debt-service costs to exports for East Africa’s biggest economy remains above the 21 per cent threshold recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The country's total public debt is currently at Sh7.o6 trillion, two trillion shy to the Sh9.1 trillion limit set last year. 

Almost one third of low- and middle-income countries including Kenya had external debt-to-Gross National Income (GNI) ratios above 60 per cent at the end of 2019, compared with 23 per cent in 2010.

In nine per cent of the countries surveyed, the ratio exceeded 100 per cent, one-third more than the share of countries with a comparable ratio in 2010.

The external debt stock of countries eligible for the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) endorsed in April by the G20 climbed to $744 billion.

 

The rise in public and publicly guaranteed long-term external debt of this group of countries over the past decade has doubled (to $523 billion in 2019).

Kenya was among the list but the National Treasury turned down the offer, saying it would further undermine the country’s creditworthiness, whose risk has since been raised to high from moderate by IMF.

World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged leaders to tame debt accumulation appetite and seek lighter debt burden.

"It's been very important that leaders of poorest nations speak up and speak out about the need for a lighter debt burden from the creditor nations," Malpass said

He added that achieving long-term debt sustainability will depend on a large-scale shift in the world’s approach to debt and investment transparency.

“Greater debt transparency is critical to productive investment and debt sustainability,” he said.