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African Union grateful for aid from Chinese groups

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-04-30 10:37

Volunteers prepare food to be distributed to families in need who have been affected by restrictions to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday. [SYLVAIN CHERKAOUI/AP]

The African Union on Tuesday commended the help given by the Jack Ma and Alibaba foundations as yet another expression of Chinese support for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or Africa CDC, said in a statement that the foundations' support ranged from the provision of much-needed supplies to a sharing of expertise.

Nkengasong said the Jack Ma Foundation had taken "its support to public health in Africa to the next level" in teaming up with Africa CDC to hold a webinar, "Global MediXChange for Combating COVID-19: The Experience of China", on Tuesday.

Africa CDC is the healthcare agency of the 55-member pan-African bloc.

The webinar for combating COVID-19 across Africa and beyond, with particular emphasis on the experience of China, enabled "medical experts from Africa, China and other parts of the world to share knowledge, experience and best practices for treating COVID-19", Africa CDC said in a statement.

On Monday, the Africa CDC received a third donation of medical equipment and supplies from the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

More than 1,400 people across Africa have died from COVID-19, and over 33,000 have been infected.

Education technology

The indefinite closure of schools and universities due to the coronavirus, has highlighted the need for countries to strengthen their capabilities in education technology.

While parts of the continent have previously experienced education disruptions, due to Ebola outbreaks, climate change-related disasters and armed conflicts, the disruptions seen now are more uniformly spread.

The closure of schools poses an added stress to the education system, as many African countries are already struggling to provide quality education for all.

The UNESCO is recommending the adoption of open education applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely.

The UN agency has established a COVID-19 task force to provide advice and technical assistance to governments working to teach students away from schools.

Amid concerns that African tertiary institutions are not as well equipped as their counterparts in North America, Asia and Europe, the Association of African Universities has urged greater spending on online learning systems.

The association has appealed for governments to support African higher education institutions.

"This is a great opportunity to communicate clear messages to our governments on the urgent need to strengthen educational institutions and systems by making them future-ready and able to survive and thrive in a world of uncertainty," it said.

In an effort to ensure that children continue to learn and to read during the crisis, several African publishers and digital content providers have offered their content for free.

However, low internet penetration levels hamper any push for online teaching. According to the World Bank Group, the average broadband penetration rate in Africa-including 3G and 4G connections-is only 25 percent. Mobile broadband coverage reaches only 70 percent of the population, it said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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