Uganda might soon join the list of countries that have fallen prey to the infamous Chinese debt trap strategy. The country risks losing its only international airport, the Entebbe International Airport, to China. China’s Export-Import(EXIM) Bank lent Uganda $207 million at two per cent upon disbursement, in 2015. The loan, meant for the expansion of Entebbe airport, came with a repayment period of 20 years, and a grace period of seven years. However, it has now emerged, through international media reports, that the clause for international immunity was waived by the Ugandan government for securing the loan. This means that the Chinese lender can repossess the Entebbe International Airport without any international arbitration. Statement from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) suggests that some provisions in the Financing Agreement with China expose Entebbe International Airport and other Ugandan assets to be attached and taken over by Chinese lenders upon arbitration in Beijing.
Last week, Ugandan finance minister, Matia Kasaija, apologized to the country’s parliament for “mishandling” the multi-million dollar loan. The latest media reports also suggest that a delegation of Ugandan officials visited China earlier this year in an attempt to renegotiate the terms of the loan agreement. However, the Chinese made it clear that they do not want any alterations to the deal originally agreed upon.
China is undoubtedly trying to make inroads in Africa for a really long time. From Chinese gold mine operations in Ghana to the Dolareh Multipurpose Port in Djibouti, and now the Entebbe airport, African nations have proven to be easy takers of the Chinese debt trap bait. The need for capital for infrastructure development in the underdeveloped African countries, and less than transparent governments have greatly helped the expansionist Chinese regime in growing their influence in the continent.