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China in Africa: The Real Story

Ghana's New China Deals: What's the Real Story?

Deborah Brautigam

Ghana and China presidents toast deal: WSJ photo credit
We've heard a lot recently about the new multi-billion deals signed between Ghana and several Chinese banks, including China Development Bank (US$3 billion) and China Eximbank (US$5.9 billion for 19 infrastructure projects). Yet a lot is still murky, including the actual value of these agreements, and how they are linked to Ghana's new oil and gas resources.

On September 22, 2010, Reuters reported a phone interview with Ghana's deputy finance minister in Beijing, who appeared to put the China Eximbank credit figure alone at US$9.87 billion, A separate story on the Government of Ghana's official website September 22, 2010 reported the Eximbank credit at $10.4 billion and said that it was "concessionary"). Now the story appears to have changed.

Here is a link to the October 26, 2010 Government of Ghana's official press release about these deals.

(1) According to this official press release, the total line of credit amount is less than the  $13 billion we were reading about in the papers:  still $3 billion from CDB but "only" $5.9 billion from Eximbank, or a total of $8.9 billion). 

(2) Interesting capacity-building and knowledge transfer plans are built into the agreement, for example: "The Framework Agreement entered into with the China Development Bank also makes provision for the CDB to share and transfer knowledge to the [Ghana] National Development Planning Commission on the lessons and experience gained in the application of project financing arrangements to the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects through multi-year investment rolling plans."

(3) The large deals are explicitly at commercial, not concessionary, rates, although Ghana also received a separate foreign aid package of a grant, zero-interest loan, and concessional loan/preferential export credit of $250 million at 2%.  This latter package is quite similar to the kind of packages offered to Mauritius, Namibia, and other credit-worthy middle income countries in Africa.
In September I had lunch in Beijing with Roger Nord, a senior adviser to the Africa Department of the IMF, and we talked quite intensely about the structure of these deals. I was pleased to read Roger voicing to Reuters a reassuring "good opportunity for Ghana" take on these deals in Reuters. At the same time, the difference between the September and October figures for China Eximbank, and the delay in the press release, suggest that some behind the scenes negotiating on debt sustainability may have been going on. This also happened, but with much more rancor, in the DRC, where the initial Chinese loan package was reduced from some $9 billion, to some $6 billion.

Ghana's parliament has to approve these deals, and presumably they will receive more information. What we still don't know is just how these deals are linked to Ghana's new oil and gas resources. In the DRC, Chinese loans were used partly to develop new resources and thus new cash flows, which were used to secure/repay separate loans for development infrastructure not connected at all to the mining investment. Yet according to Africa-Asia Confidential, "resource swaps are explicitly barred under the draft Petroleum Revenue Management Framework Bill being debated in parliament." Stay tuned.