Africa Currency Debt Economy Ethiopia Finance Governance

Impact of debt restructuring in Ethiopia still unclear, as currency plunged after announcement

Ethiopia cannot yet say whether private creditors will be affected by the country’s “prudent” plan to overhaul its debt, a Finance Ministry adviser said on Tuesday, after last week’s announcement led to a sharp drop in Ethiopia’s dollar bond.

Addis Ababa said on Friday it planned to restructure its sovereign debt under a new common framework of the G20 group of major economies designed to help with the financial pressures of COVID-19. It said it was examining all options.

After the news, the price of Ethiopia’s dollar bond issue suffered its biggest one-day fall, dropping around 8 cents in the dollar to under 92 cents. Tradeweb data showed it had recovered modestly on Tuesday to about 93 cents.

“This is a proactive government strategy to make sure our finances are in order so that we are in a much better position to have access to international financial markets,” Brook Taye, a senior adviser at the Finance Ministry, told Reuters.

Describing the debt plan as “prudent”, he said it was too early to say what it would mean for private creditors.

“Without any sort of exercise at this stage, it is very difficult for us to make any sort of discussion, comment or suggestion as to what will happen,” the adviser said.

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The G20’s framework unveiled in November aims to streamline the process for poor countries to reduce their stock of debt and foresees relief from both bilateral and private creditors.

Ethiopia was starting a fresh debt sustainability analysis with the help of the International Monetary Fund before engaging with creditors, Brook said, adding that the country’s indebtedness stood at about 60% of gross domestic product.

Ethiopia has worked with creditors in the past to manage its debt burden. China, one of its key creditors, restructured loans to Ethiopia in 2018, including a US$4B loan used to build a new railway line connecting landlocked Ethiopia to the sea.

Brook said the restructuring was not necessitated by “a dire situation” and said Ethiopia was up to date with payments on its 2024 dollar bond.

Source: Reuters

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