Sierra Leone cancels Chinafunded airport project
FREETOWN - Sierra Leone has cancelled a $400 million Chinese-funded project to build a new airport outside the capital Freetown. Former President Ernest Bai Koroma signed the loan agreement with China before he lost elections in March. At the time, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund warned that the project would impose a heavy debt burden. The decision comes amid concern that many African countries risk defaulting on their debts to China. Aviation Minister Kabineh Kallon told the BBC that the project, which was due to have been completed in 2022, wasn’t necessary and its current international airport would be renovated instead. He said the current president, Julius Maada Bio, “didn’t see any need for Mamamah (the proposed airport)” and was considering building a bridge from the capital to Lungi airport - the only international airport in the country. Currently passengers need to get a boat or helicopter to reach Freetown. Kallon said he did not know whether the cancelled contract would lead to financial implications, and Sierra Leone remained on good terms with China. “As (a) sovereign state, I do have the right to take the best decision for the country,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. Critics say China is luring countries into debt traps by lending them money for massive infrastructure projects. But China has denied claims that it is leading countries into a debt trap.
Former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma (left) stepped down from power in April