April 27, 2020 / 5:32 PM / a month ago

Rwanda in talks to delay debt payments as coronavirus hits economy -President

KIGALI, April 27 (Reuters) - Rwanda’s economy will probably only grow by around 3.5% this year, undercut by the effects of the coronavirus, and the government is in talks with lenders to postpone debt repayments, President Paul Kagame said on Monday.

In January, before the pandemic spread globally, the International Monetary Fund had forecast Rwanda’s economy would grow 8% this year and estimated it expanded by 8.5% last year.

But the east African country is expected to be hard hit by the coronavirus as it relies heavily on revenues from foreign visitors.

“We are going to see it (growth) come down to... around 3.5%,” Kagame said at a news conference, without giving further details.

Rwanda will need about a billion dollars to recover from the economic slowdown caused by virus, he said, adding that his government would source the money through a mix of debt and grants, without elaborating.

The country was also in negotiations with some of its lenders to postpone debt repayments, he said, but did not name the lenders.

“We have been in touch with lenders relating to the debt problem... if they could put a standstill on the debt for at least two years that money would be retained and reinvested in our systems,” he said.

Rwanda has so far recorded 191 cases of COVID-19, and no deaths. The country is implementing one of Africa’s strictest lockdowns including shutting all businesses except the most essential.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; editing by Elias Biryabarema and Susan Fenton

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