LUSAKA - More than 100 economists and academics have urged international lenders to crisis-stricken Zambia to write off a significant slice of their loans during financial restructuring talks this month.

Zambia is seeking up to $8.4 billion (£7.3 billion) in debt relief from major lenders, including private funds run by the world’s largest investment manager, BlackRock, to help put its public finances back in order.

In the run-up to what are understood to be tense negotiations involving the Chinese, French and British governments, the anti-poverty charity Debt Justice said that only a major debt write-off could save the Zambian economy from complete collapse.

Led by the Columbia University economist, Jeffrey Sachs, and Jayati Ghosh, the chair of the Centre for Economic Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the 100-plus global group of economists and experts said in a letter to the creditors’ negotiating committee that Zambia should be given a waiver from debt interest payments due until 2023.

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1.3 billion loan to the country, which defaulted on its $17.3 billion of external debt after a collapse in its public finances during the pandemic.