African Debt

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Debt is an important source of financing for development, but it needs to be sustainable. African debt has been growing significantly over the past decade.

Explore how much debt African countries hold, who it is owed to, and how much debt servicing costs countries each year. Data is from the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics.

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Key numbers

  • 22 countries in Africa are in, or at risk of, debt distress (59% of assessed countries)
  • African countries owe US$625.4 billion to external creditors as of 2020
  • African countries will pay US$64.4 billion in debt service in 2022
  • Debt owed by African countries is equivalent to 26.3% of their combined GDP in 2020

How much do African countries owe?

Africa’s debt is at its highest level in over a decade. As a result of COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and soaring inflation, African countries have had to take on even more debt, and now 22 countries are either bankrupt or at high risk of debt distress.

Total debt owed by African countries

Africa’s debt stocks have grown significantly in the past decade.

This chart shows how much is owed to each creditor type and how it has changed over time. It is based on public and publicly guaranteed long-term debt outstanding and disbursed in USD billion (current prices).

The chart is based on the latest International Debt Statistics data (Oct 2021) and does not reflect any rescheduling or restructuring that may have taken place since December 2020.

African debt as a share of GDP is increasing

Africa’s debt as a percentage of GDP has been rising quickly since 2014, and is 26.3% of African countries’ GDP (as of 2022 for countries with available data). Yet many individual countries have rates far higher.

This chart includes data on public and publicly guaranteed long-term debt outstanding and disbursed as a percentage of a countries’ gross domestic product (GDP).

Type a country in the search bar to select several countries to view at once. Hover over the graph for more details.

Who owns African debt?

The composition of African debt has changed significantly. Previously, the majority of African debt was owed to official creditors – high-income countries and multilateral lenders like the World Bank and IMF. Now, China and private creditors make up a large proportion of debt stocks, meaning more debt is non-concessional.

How much debt is owed to whom?

This chart shows the main creditors for each grouping of public debt – private, multilateral, or bilateral. More than 40% of African debt is owed to private creditors, 26.6% to bilateral creditors, and 32.5% to multilateral creditors.

Select a country to view and hover over the chart for more details.

China now owns a large proportion of African debt

China has become Africa’s biggest bilateral lender, holding over $73 billion of Africa’s debt in 2020 and almost $9 billion of private debt.

Select a country to view and hover over the chart for more details.

African debt service

African debt service payments have increased substantially in the past decade, in part due to higher interest payments on private loans.

African countries’ yearly debt service payments have quadrupled since 2010

This chart shows yearly debt service owed to bilateral, multilateral, and private creditors.

Debt service is interest plus principal payments on public and publicly guaranteed (PPG) debt, in USD million (current prices).

The chart does not reflect any rescheduling or restructuring that may have taken place since December 2020.

Debt service as a share of government spending

Even before the pandemic, more than 30 African countries spent more on debt service than on healthcare.

This chart shows yearly debt service owed to bilateral, multilateral, and private creditors as a percentage of total government expenditure. Debt service is interest plus principal payments on public and publicly guaranteed (PPG) debt.

Government expenditure refers to general government expense, net of acquisition of non financial assets. Data for recent years are IMF estimates from the World Economic Outlook.