Washington: The IMF board on Monday approved a three-year, $455 million loan for the Republic of Congo to help undergird the small African nation’s economic recovery. The global crisis-lender will provide $90 million immediately under the Extended Credit Facility to help the oil-dependent country deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy “is expected to strengthen in the second half of the year, supported by vaccine rollout, social spending, and domestic arrears, payments,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Kenji Okamura said in a statement “However, the nascent recovery is facing significant risks, including a possible worsening of the pandemic (and) continued volatility in oil prices.” But reducing the nation’s “debt vulnerabilities” will be key, Okamura said, noting the government is working on restructuring its debt. Congo, a land of five million people that abuts the vast Democratic Republic of Congo, relies on oil for most of its wealth and has build up debt to China for loans used to help build some of its petroleum infrastructures. The IMF estimates the economy will grow 2.4 percent this year after a slight contraction in 2021.