US-based organizations demand BlackRock cancel it’s share of Zambia’s debt

Western institutions own 70% of Zambia’s debt. It’s time for the largest private owner of such debt to cancel it entirely, say activists

August 11, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, who leads the company in possession of the highest privately-owned share of Zambia's debt (Photo: World Economic Forum)

On August 14, progressive organizations, led by the ANSWER Coalition and the Peoples Forum, will rally outside of the BlackRock global headquarters in New York City to demand that the multinational investment company cancel Zambia’s debt. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, holds the largest privately-owned share of Zambia’s debt at a staggering USD 220 million. BlackRock is not starved for funds, owning USD 10 trillion in assets and dividends and investing in industries such as private prisons, fossil fuels, and pharmaceutical giants.

[BlackRock’s] refusal to cancel or negotiate a restructuring of their share of the debt amounts to holding their foot on the neck of 20 million Zambians,” writes the ANSWER Coalition in a statement.

Zambia’s debt, 70% of which is held by Western institutions, private or public, has directly contributed to the rampant poverty in the country. In 2021, Zambia was diverting half of its entire public income to paying its external debts, money that could be going to solving the crises of hunger, lack of education, impoverishment, among others. Over three quarters of the rural population of Zambia lives below the national poverty line. More than half of the entire population (54.4%) lives below the poverty line, with 40.8% living in extreme poverty. Zambia’s Gini coefficient, a global indicator in inequality, is 57, one of the highest in the world. 34.8% of children experience stunted growth in Zambia.

Dr. Fred M’membe, president of the Socialist Party of Zambia, told BreakThrough News that instead of diverting money to debt, the country should be addressing “education, health, and agriculture…to ensure that our people have good access to food. Even if you provide free education to a child who doesn’t have access to food, the child can’t learn in school without eating.”

While the people of Zambia suffer extreme poverty, “through the use of Eurobonds (bonds sold in dollars or euros) private Western creditors shop around for African debt, making huge profits off the financial crisis of an entire country and people,” writes the ANSWER Coalition.