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Zambia's govt under pressure to repay US$273 million

Zambia's govt under pressure to repay US3 million

Zambia's controversy-ridden digital migration project has again made headlines - this time because the country's consumer watchdog wants a review of the terms and conditions attached to the repayment of the US$273 million loan the government borrowed from China.

Having only digitally migrated four provinces during the first phase of the project, the government secured the loan to extend the project to six additional provinces.

The first phase cost US$9 million and has heightened fears that the US$273 million for final phase (six provinces) was inflated by officials.

Now the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is demanding that the loan be repaid in 13 years instead of 25 years as reportedly agreed upon by the two countries.

CCPC chairperson Kelvin Bwalya Fube said this was in the best interests of the country and the organisation would seek legal intervention should the government insist on repaying the loan over 25 years.

"In the board decision that we have taken, we have said that the 25 years that was given as a lifeline to the joint venture, should not go to 25 years. Why? Because we believe from the calculations given to us by our accountants, auditors and the people who took time to analyse these things, that the loan repayment can be given back before 25 years. So to clarify the position, nobody is going to go for 25 years," Fube said.

Government spokesperson Dora Siliya said officials would issue a statement on the position taken by the CCPC.

Zambia is scheduled to repay the US$273 million through TopStar, 40% of which is owned by the national broadcaster the Zambia National Broadcasting Cooperation (ZNBC) through a joint venture with China's StartTimes.

According to the deal, TopStar will collect all ZNBC advertising and tower rental revenue for the duration of the loan agreement.

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