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France to lend Sudan $1.5bn to offset IMF debt

The French government is to lend Sudan 1.5 billion Dollars to help the north African nation repay its massive debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

Sudan is slowly emerging from decades of economic sanctions and isolation under former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was overthrown by the military in 2019 following an uprising.

Mr. Le Maire, who addressed reporters on Monday, said France would grant the “bridge loan” to Khartoum. But he also urged IMF members to undertake to cover the 1.3 billion Dollars in arrears in order for the IMF to pay the bridge loan back.

Analysts say the move could allow sanctions-hit Sudan to re-enter the international financial circuits and attract investors. It may also pave the way for much of Sudan’s 50-billion-Dollar external debt to be forgiven under the IMF and World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries scheme, they say.

Later on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to confirm the financial commitment at a summit in Paris.

In September 2019, Mr. Macron made a promise to Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during his visit to France. The pledge by Mr. Macron came six months after the revolution that ousted Mr. Bashir from power and ended his thirty-year rule.

Oil-rich Sudan is being seriously hampered by debt, with inflation reaching 300%. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the country’s economy hard.

Mr. Hamdok took office at the head of a transitional government shortly after the removal of Mr. Bashir, whose decades-long autocratic rule was marked by economic stagnation,  multi-sided civil wars and biting international sanctions.

In the past two years, Mr. Hamdok and his government have pushed to rebuild the crippled economy and end Sudan’s international isolation.

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