Today we can help bring an end to a period of ghastly uncertainty. Free of charge. The British & Irish Lions have been fretting about their next touring venue among chaotic uncertainties — the worst of Covid, rugby’s packed seasons, SA Rugby and the near-disdain of officials in Britain and Ireland who simply do not understand what the Lions are.
Here goes. Instead of the long-planned tour to South Africa, they must go to . . . South Africa. Not in July-August this year as arranged, but in exactly the same window in 2022. Consider the wonderful vision that appears with a one-year postponement; rather than touring this year in a country that is still badly afflicted by its own mutation of the virus and
Scotland will play defending champions South Africa in their first match of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
England's opening match of the tournament will be against Argentina on the previous day, 9 September.
Wales take on Fiji, against whom they suffered a pool-stage shock in 2007, on the same weekend.
The schedule begins with hosts France taking on three-time champions New Zealand at Paris' Stade de France on Friday, 8 September.
"Everyone who likes rugby dreams of seeing this game," France captain Charles Ollivon said of the match against the All Blacks.
"Kicking off our World Cup against the All Blacks, there's no equivalent."
Ireland's first opposition will be confirmed when the final two European teams are decided, with Georgia, Russia and Spain among the possibilities.
Ireland's potentially crucial Pool B meeting with Scotland will take place at the 80,000-seater Stade de France on Saturday, 7 October.
England's and Scotland's opening games will be played in Marseille's Stade Velodrome on successive days as part of the organisers' plan of bringing fans together for 'double-header weekends' in host cities.
Wales and Ireland will both begin their campaigns in Bordeaux on the same weekend.The Stade de France hosted France's win over England in last year's Six Nations, as well as the 2007 Rugby World Cup final
The tournament has been extended by a week to allow all teams at least five days' rest between pool matches, while squads have been expanded from 31 to 33 players.
The top two teams in each of the four pools progress to the quarter-finals, which are shared between Marseille and Paris.
Both semi-finals, the third-place match and 28 October's final all take place at the Stade de France.2023 Rugby World Cup schedule
September 8: Stade de France - France v New Zealand
September 9: Saint-Etienne - Italy v Africa 1
September 14: Lille - France v America 1
September 15: Toulouse - New Zealand v Africa 1
September 20: Nice - Italy v America 1
September 21: Marseille - France v Africa 1
September 27: Lyon - America 1 v Africa 1
September 29: Lyon - New Zealand v Italy
October 5: Lyon - New Zealand v America 1
October 6: Lyon - France v Italy
September 9: Bordeaux - Ireland v Europe 2
September 10: Marseille - South Africa v Scotland
September 16: Nantes - Ireland v Asia/Pacific 1
September 17: Bordeaux - South Africa v Europe 2
September 23: Stade de France - South Africa v Ireland
September 24: Nice - Scotland v Asia/Pacific 1
September 30: Lille - Scotland v Europe 2
October 1: Marseille - South Africa v Asia/Pacific 1
October 7: Stade de France - Ireland v Scotland
October 8: Lille - Asia/Pacific 1 v Europe 2
September 9: Saint-Denis - Australia - Europe 1
September 10: Bordeaux - Wales v Fiji
September 16: Nice - Wales v Winner final qualifying round
September 17: Saint-Etienne - Australia v Fiji
September 23: Toulouse - Europe 1 v Winner final qualifying round
September 24: Lyon - Wales v Australia
September 30: Bordeaux - Fiji v Europe 1
October 1: Saint-Etienne - Australia v - Winner final qualifying round
October 7: Nantes - Wales v Europe 1
October 8: Toulouse - Fiji v Winner final qualifying round
September 9: Marseille - England v Argentina
September 10: Toulouse - Japan v America 2
September 16: Bordeaux - Oceania 1 v America 2
September 17: Nice - England v Japan
September 22: Saint-Etienne - Argentina v Oceania 1
September 23: Lille - England v America 2
September 28: Toulouse - Japan v Oceania 1
September 30: Nantes - Argentina v America 2
October 7: Lille - England v Oceania 1
October 8: Nantes - Japan v Argentina
October 14: Marseille - Pool C winner v Pool D runner-up
October 14: Stade de France - Pool B winner v Pool A runner-up
October 15: Marseille - Pool D v Pool C runner-up
October 15: Stade de France - Pool A winner v Pool B runner-up
October 20: Stade de France - Winner QF 1 v Winner QF 2
October 21: Stade de France - Winner QF 3 v Winner QF 4
Third place play-off
October 27: Stade de France
October 28: Stade de France
Chinese banks offered African countries significant debt restructuring before the pandemic and have continued to do so. On Capitol Hill, the idea of cooperation with China remains unfashionable. Yet on U.S. policymaking related to Africa, understanding how Chinese financial institutions operate in Africa may help inform the debate on the ways to help Africans recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The G-20 suspended debt payments
The Group of 20 of the world’s largest economies, including China, moved quickly in April and again in November to suspend debt service on all official bilateral lending for low-income countries. This means that those countries, including many in Africa, temporarily do not have to pay principal or interest on those loans.
But the debt relief program lasts only through June 2021. Many borrowers will recover with temporary help, but others are now essentially bankrupt. In November, the G-20 launched a special program to manage these cases.
What is the scope of the G-20 effort in Africa?
In total, 38 African countries are eligible for G-20 debt relief. Altogether, they owe $25 billion in 2021 repayments alone. So far, 31 have requested relief.
The G-20 effort marks the first time China is participating in multilateral debt relief. As Africa’s largest bilateral creditor, China holds at least 21 percent of African debt — and payments to China account for nearly 30 percent of 2021’s debt service, as shown in the figure below. Angola alone accounts for almost a third.
Africa’s 2021 debt payments
But that’s not all of Africa’s debt trouble. Multilateral lenders — the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and others — constitute 20 percent of Africa’s debt service this year. While these lenders are undertaking some efforts to help countries repay their own loans, they are not relaxing repayment requirements. Likewise, bondholders, who are responsible for 19 percent of 2021’s debt service, have held back from providing any debt relief. For many African countries, the combined effects of these debt burdens are disastrous.
How China has been restructuring African debt
Our research at the Johns Hopkins SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) suggests that China has played a significant role in helping African countries to manage their debt. We documented 16 cases of debt restructuring worth $7.5 billion in 10 African countries between 2000 and 2019. China also wrote off the accumulated arrears of at least 94 interest-free loans amounting to at least $3.4 billion. However, interest-free loans make up less than 5 percent of China’s lending to Africa.
In China, debt cancellation for overdue, interest-free loans follows a standardized process, but our research found that other debt restructurings tend to be ad hoc. Over 30 Chinese financiers — policy banks, commercial banks and Chinese companies — lend to African governments, and each institution handles its own debt negotiations.
Most cases of prior debt relief involved only one or a selection of loans from a country’s Chinese debt portfolio. Debt restructuring usually involved extending the repayment period. In a handful of cases, the interest rate changed. Chinese lenders focused on the cash flows of the underlying loan-financed projects as well as the country’s overall payments position.
Here’s an example: In 2012, Niger asked China Eximbank to lower the interest rate for a Chinese-built refinery that was having difficulty repaying its loan because the high price of its crude input and the low price of its products — two prices controlled by the Nigerien government — caused the refinery to lose money. The bank refused. Yet when low global commodity prices later caused problems for Niger, China Eximbank rescheduled the last chunk of the refinery loan.
Our research found that Chinese lenders have not pursued lawsuits in cases of debt default. We also found no asset seizures.
What’s happened since the pandemic?
Since the launch of the G-20 program in April 2020, official bilateral creditors have suspended at least $5 billion of debt service payments. As of February 2021, Chinese financiers had finalized debt service suspensions for 16 African nations.
Before the pandemic, China negotiated debt relief bilaterally, without consulting the IMF or other creditors. Now, the G-20, including China, are jointly setting the terms of debt relief, and moving forward, the G20’s Common Framework will coordinate the joint negotiations of official bilateral creditors.
However, controversially, China has designated two financiers as “official” creditors: its new aid agency CIDCA (China International Development Cooperation Agency) and the official export credit agency, China Eximbank. Beijing considers state-owned China Development Bank, a significant lender to Angola (but not elsewhere in low-income Africa), to be a commercial lender that participates in debt relief voluntarily. Germany has taken the same stance on its state-owned bank KfW-IPEX.
Still, China Development Bank and at least one commercial lender, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, have provided post-pandemic debt relief. As Zambia became the first country to default on its Eurobonds in November, China Development Bank agreed to defer debt service for six months for its Zambian debt. And China Eximbank suspended its debt payments via the G-20 plan.
In Angola, China Eximbank is also providing debt relief under G-20 terms. But Angolans negotiated longer-term debt relief treatment with China Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Between 2020 and 2022, Angola will get $6.9 billion in debt relief, mostly from China.
Chinese banks have offered significant debt restructuring both before and during the coronavirus era acting within and outside of the G-20 arrangements. Yet with multiple Chinese stakeholders, debt relief takes time. Nevertheless, African nations may see faster debt relief from China than the West. Bondholders and private Western creditors have yet to join the G-20’s debt relief efforts.
Editors’ note: This article is part of a new series exploring Chinese investment in Africa, along with activities related to debt relief, infrastructure and other critical issues across the continent. See below for the contributions from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies China Africa Research Initiative (SAIS-CARI) workshop; new articles will be added as they are published.
Kevin Acker is the research manager at the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Yufan Huang is a PhD candidate in the government department of Cornell University.