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China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals

China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-27 09:59

2. Jointly Combating COVID-19

Confronted by COVID-19, China and Africa have withstood a severe challenge, helping each other and fighting side by side to defeat the pandemic through solidarity and cooperation.

In June 2020, the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 was held via video link, making China the first country in the world to convene an anti-pandemic summit with Africa. It has provided a guide for international anti-pandemic cooperation with Africa, and injected new impetus into global anti-pandemic cooperation. At the summit, President Xi elaborated on important policies on advancing China-Africa cooperation and strengthening international cooperation amid the pandemic. He called for the accelerated implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, with greater priority to be given to cooperation in the areas of public health, economic reopening, and people's livelihoods. He also announced a series of measures regarding anti-pandemic assistance to Africa, debt relief, debt service suspension, and economic reopening, which have been highly praised and widely welcomed in Africa. Participating leaders issued the Joint Statement of the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19, agreeing to join forces in resolutely fighting the pandemic, pressing for cooperation, practicing multilateralism, and enhancing friendship. Since the summit the two sides have closely worked together on pandemic prevention and control, resuming economic activity, and restoring and progressing China-Africa cooperation.

During the toughest times in China's fight against the epidemic, African countries and regional organizations such as the AU rendered strong support and assistance to China through various means. In February 2020, the Executive Council of the AU issued a communiqué in support of China's anti-epidemic efforts-the first time an important regional organization and an entire continent had offered China such support. Those expressing their support and sympathy also included the heads of state of 48 African countries, heads of government of 11 countries, 12 speakers of legislative bodies, and the chairperson of the AU Commission, who all sent letters or telegrams. The governments of 10 countries issued statements; foreign ministers of 18 countries sent letters; and participants of an AU Peace and Security Council meeting, an emergency meeting of African health ministers and other meetings of major regional organizations also expressed sympathy. Though few African countries are wealthy, they still actively donated money and supplies to China, and some African students studying in China also joined the local fight against the epidemic.

After COVID-19 struck Africa, China immediately offered humanitarian assistance, the largest such program in scale and the most difficult to implement since the founding of the PRC. Since 2020, in coordination with local governments, enterprises and social organizations, the central government of China has provided emergency anti-pandemic supplies-including 120 batches of nucleic test reagents, protective gear, masks, eye protectors and ventilators-to 53 African countries and the AU based on their respective needs, with these emergency supplies reaching almost all areas across the continent. China has also actively shared its anti-epidemic experience with African countries, and dispatched anti-epidemic medical expert groups or short-term anti-epidemic medical teams to 17 African countries to fight the epidemic alongside local people. It also pushed for the earlier start of the construction of the headquarters of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a project assisted by China.

China actively honors its commitment to make vaccines a global public good. At the time when Chinese vaccines had just reached the market and domestic supply was tight, China began to supply vaccines to Africa in support of its battle against the pandemic. By November 12, 2021, China had provided over 1.7 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to more than 110 countries and organizations, including 50 African countries and the AU Commission, and is striving to provide a total of 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. In addition to donating $100 million to COVAX, China will donate 100 million doses of vaccine to developing countries including those in Africa. Chinese firms are actively engaging in joint vaccine production in Africa with local firms, helping countries, in accordance with their wishes, to realize localized vaccine production. To date they have started localized production in Egypt, and signed cooperative agreements with Morocco and Algeria.

To help African countries cope with the pandemic and overcome temporary difficulties, China supports the effort to reduce the debt burden on African countries, and is actively implementing the G20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). Among G20 members, China ranks first in terms of the amount of deferred debt, having signed debt service suspension agreements or reached consensus with 19 African countries. China supports extending the DSSI till the end of 2021, and is working with relevant members to implement the Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. For countries experiencing a very serious epidemic situation and under particularly severe pressure, China, together with other stakeholders, will provide support on a case-by-case basis.

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