China has cancelled Cameroon’s debt of US $78 million (about CFAF 41.5 billion), as part of a series of measures to alleviate the economic difficulties in the Central African country.

Some analysts say the Chinese authorities want to have, with this decision, better access to Cameroon’s natural resources.

Cameroon’s debt relief decision was announced following a meeting of Cameroonian President Paul Biya with Yang Jiechi, a special advisor to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Cameroon’s total debt to China amounts to nearly US $5.7 billion (about CFAF 3.038 billion), according to the Cameroon Autonomous Fund for Amortization, the department in charge of the country’s external debt.

The amount cancelled by China had to be paid in 2018, but Cameroon did not respect its commitment.

President Paul Biya, who travelled to China for the third summit of Sino-African cooperation last September, pleaded with the Chinese authorities to ease his country’s debt.

The Cameroonian economist Ariel Gnitedem says that the cancelled amount seems derisory in relation to the total debt. But the cancellation of this sum could benefit China in the long term, according to him.

“China wants to control the sub-regional market, and Cameroon is the gateway, so China may want to have more of Cameroon’s enormous natural resources, which are essential for its industry,” Ariel Gnitedem told the BBC.

Cameroon borrowed money from China to build dams, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure.

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