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Chinese experts slam foreign media hype over Uganda airport

Chinese experts on Wednesday criticized foreign media outlets for repeating lies about Chinese firm “taking over” the international airport in Uganda’s capital.

Although Ugandan authorities and the Chinese Embassy in Uganda in November refuted relevant claims, some foreign media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, have again used the story to discredit Chinese-funded projects in Africa.

Foreign media picked up their old tunes recently, which are used to politicize some Chinese outward assistance and slander China’s international cooperation, Zhou Yuyuan, senior research fellow at the Center for West Asian and African Studies under the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The malicious allegation that “Uganda Surrenders Key Assets for China Cash” has no factual basis and is ill-intended only to distort the good relations that China enjoys with developing countries, including Uganda, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Uganda said earlier.

“I wish to make it categorically clear that the allegation that Entebbe Airport has been given away for cash is false. The Ugandan government can’t give away such a national asset. We have said it before and repeat that it has not happened. There isn’t an ounce of truth in it,” Vianney M. Luggya, spokesman of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), also said in November.

Zhou noted that most Western countries cannot catch up with China in the infrastructure construction sector, which means they are less competitive compared with China.

The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, had undertaken about 3,600 projects worth $4 trillion by the end of 2020, according to a Refinitiv report.

“Not a single project in Africa has ever been ‘confiscated’ by China because of failing to pay Chinese loans. On the contrary, China firmly supports and is willing to continue its efforts to improve Africa’s capacity for home-driven development,” the Chinese Embassy said.

There are differences in understanding between the content of the loan contract signed between Uganda and China, and foreign media reports, analysts said.

According to a report released by research lab AidData, the loan contract didn’t state China will “take charge” of Entebbe Airport if Uganda cannot repay the loan. The contract stated that the loan will be paid via a special bank account, which is for the operating revenue of the airport.

The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy also said that the terms of the airport loan are in full compliance with the prevailing conventions and practices in the international financial market. 

On March 31, 2015, the Export-Import Bank of China and the government of Uganda signed a government concessional loan agreement worth 1.26 billion yuan ($197.8 million) for phase 1 of the Entebbe International Airport Rehabilitation Project.

The 20-year loan had a 7-year grace period, with a 2-percent interest rate, read the report. 

“The interest rate of 2 percent is a fixed rate, and it means that the Ugandan government only needs to pay the principal, plus 2 percent of the principal, when maturity is reached, which is real assistance for Uganda,” said Zhou.

“The loan terms provide a grace period of seven years, and we are still within that grace period, during which only interest is paid, and the government has not defaulted on those obligations,” Luggya tweeted.

Source: Global Times

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