Protesters are staging a demonstration outside BlackRock's Edinburgh office - Credit: Maverick Photo Agency

CAMPAIGNERS protested outside of Blackrock’s Edinburgh office to demand that the company cancel Zambia’s debt on Wednesday.

On the day BlackRock announces its annual earnings, campaigners from Global Justice Now and Jubilee Scotland were demonstrating for Blackrock, one of Zambia’s largest known bondholders, to write off the country’s debts as it struggles to recover from the pandemic.

Activists arrived outside of BlackRock’s office in the capital with a large piñata in the shape of a black rock with one campaigner in a suit and a Larry Fink mask – CEO of BlackRock – holding it up for other protestors to hit.

The contents of the piñata were said to symbolise many of the things Zambia will continue to have restricted access to until its debt is cancelled such as money, medical equipment and renewable energy.

Zambia’s debt payments to asset managers such as BlackRock will also render Scotland’s aid funding to the country “virtually insignificant”, campaigners warn.

However, the company is not responsible for setting interest rates on which Zambia’s outstanding debt is expected to be repaid. Furthermore, BlackRock cannot unilaterally sell or cancel Zambia’s debts as the majority are held through index funds.

Zambia is one of the Scottish Government’s international development partner countries but its debt repayments for 2021 were 75 times more than the aid money Zambia received from the Scottish Government in the previous five years combined, according to campaigners.

Activists have claimed BlackRock could make $180 million profit out of its investment in Zambian bonds if the debts are paid in full.

However, BlackRock is an asset manager, not a private bank, and as such does not itself stand to make profits on the repayment of Zambia’s debt.

Isaac Mwaipopo, a member of the Zambia Civil Society Debt Alliance, and Executive Director of the Centre for Trade Policy and Development, speaking from Zambia, said: “Zambia’s debt crisis is preventing people getting access to healthcare, education, and other social services.

Protesters are staging a demonstration outside BlackRock’s Edinburgh office – Credit: Maverick Photo Agency

“We urgently need all of Zambia’s lenders, including BlackRock, to agree to cancel debt so we can recover from the pandemic and the economic crisis we face.

“Loans were given at high-interest rates, and have been trading at low prices, so it is only fair lenders agree significant debt cancellation, rather than making mass profit out of the Zambian people.”

Liz Murray, head of Scottish campaigns at Global Justice Now, added: “Zambia’s ability to respond to the pandemic and the climate emergency is being massively undermined by the debt repayments that it is having to make to banks right here in Scotland, such as BlackRock.

“While BlackRock is making huge profits, people in Zambia are going without vital medical supplies and access to education. That’s a global scandal that must end.

“We echo the call of our friends in Zambia for BlackRock to cancel Zambia’s debt.”

Line Christensen, campaign director at Jubilee Scotland said: “The aid money given by Scotland to Zambia is being dwarfed by the huge repayments that Zambia is being forced to make to private creditors like BlackRock.

“Big banks often pile crippling interest on low-income countries’ debts, locking them in a never-ending cycle of payments that prevent investment in crucial infrastructure, education, and health services -and they haven’t let up during the pandemic.”- the national


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