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Energy

Banks agree $545 million for Congo Republic economy

BRAZZAVILLE, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A group of banks has agreed more than $545 million worth of funding to boost Congo Republic’s long-suffering economy, officials said on Saturday.

The oil-producer was hit by a sharp drop in crude prices in 2014, leaving it with debt of nearly $9.5 billion, much of it owed to China and Western oil traders and amounting to 85.5% of the Central African country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The IMF agreed a three-year $449 million bailout last year, but the coronavirus pandemic is expected to cause an economic contraction of 9% in 2020, the government has said.

A group of banks including Gabon-based BGFI Bank and Togo’s Ecobank agreed the package of 300 billion CFA francs ($545.70 million), BGFI’s chief executive officer Henri-Claude Oyima told reporters after a meeting with President Denis Sassou N’Guesso.

The details of the funding were not yet clear, including when and how it would be disbursed.

“It is not a question of funding that is granted directly to the state, but funding to support businesses and allow the country’s economy to revive,” Oyima said. “This will allow part of Congo’s internal debt to be settled.”

Prime Minister Clément Mouamba welcomed the deal and acknowledged the challenges the economy still faces.

“In the agreement with the IMF, it was agreed that we make efforts to pay the domestic debt,” he told reporters. “Congo’s debt to its local creditors is significant. First, we select a few creditors who will be paid on time... These creditors will have an obligation to put the money back into the economy.” ($1 = 549.7500 CFA francs) (Reporting By Christian Elion Writing by Edward McAllister Editing by Gareth Jones)

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