Chinese Hongdu K-8 Trainer of Zimbabwe - Air Force

Beijing: The Chinese loans in Africa, which are widely seen as extensions of the country's debt-trap diplomacy are being used by the recipient countries not just for infrastructure spending, but also for militarization, with defence companies from China being one of the major suppliers.

Over the last few years, China has extended a total of 1,188 loans to various African countries, which amount to a total sum of USD159.9 billion in loans, according to data compiled by the Global Development Policy Centre of the Boston University.

Of the loans, a majority of loans have been extended for transportation and power generation projects, as has been the pattern of Chinese investment elsewhere.

However, as many as 27 of these loans, that amount to USD 3.5 billion have been extended toward defence-related projects. Of these, 13 loans have been provided to the country of Zambia alone, which has received a total loan amounting to USD 2.1 billion exclusively for defence purchases.

Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Namibia are other recipients of Chinese defence related loans.

The loans to Zambia, from 2006 to 2019 have been used primarily for the purchase of Chinese aircraft for their Air Force, with the country ordering a total of 28 military aircraft of various categories.

12 units of the Chinese K-8 Jet Trainer Aircraft have been ordered by Zimbabwe as well, using Chinese loans.

Notably, these defence related loans, which have been extended are used for the purchase of exclusively Chinese weaponry or sub-systems. Hence, attempting to create a dependency, wherein a country takes loans from China, to buy Chinese military equipment, creating a dependency cycle, as the recipient country would be further dependent on China for maintenance, spares, ammunition etc.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) persistently warns African and other third-world countries that mounting debts to China are dangerous. It stresses that Chinese creditors create some instability or vulnerabilities.

Recently, World Bank President David Malpass said that China needs to improve its lending practices in the developing world, especially in terms of transparency in the loans it provides.

"China is now one of the world's big creditor nations, especially in the developing world... in terms of the official credit that has been provided to the 75 low-income countries, China is owed nearly 60 per cent of that credit," Malpass said.