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China-Africa Cooperation in Fighting COVID-19
China, Africa map out long-term cooperation in the post-epidemic era
China and African countries have withstood the severe test of the pandemic and have taken practical actions under the principle of "China-Africa community with a shared future" to jointly fight the virus
By Guo Jia ChinAfrica ·2020-07-09

Chinese President Xi Jinping chairs the Extraordinary China-Africa Summist on Solidarity Against COVID-19 in Beijing on June 17 (XINHUA)

Chinese President Xi Jinping demonstrated China's determination to jointly fight against COVID-19 with Africa and expressed the country's commitment to promoting the unshakable China-African friendship and upholding multilateralism in a keynote speech entitled Defeating COVID-19 With Solidarity and Cooperation at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 held via video link on June 17.    

Over the past months, China and African countries have withstood the severe test of the pandemic and have taken practical actions under the principle of "China-Africa community with a shared future" to jointly fight the virus.  

While China has essentially contained the spread of the virus and African countries have achieved significant results in combating the pandemic, they still face several threats in dealing with the virus. The summit is a morale booster for China-Africa anti-pandemic cooperation, which injects confidence, highlights the brotherhood between China and Africa, and sends important messages.  

Enhancing health cooperation  

In May, at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, President Xi announced five concrete measures to boost the global fight against COVID-19, among which, he laid special emphasis on supporting Africa in combating the pandemic. 

At the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit, China followed through on the measures announced at the assembly by offering African countries support in terms of medical supplies and dispatch of expert teams to Africa. China also announced to start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year. The country will work with Africa to fully implement the health care initiative adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa friendship hospitals and deepen the cooperation between Chinese and African partner hospitals.  

China-Africa health cooperation has a history of 57 years, and the Chinese medical teams to Africa, covering 47 countries, have played an especially important role in improving the overall medical and health standards of African countries. 

In the battle against COVID-19, China and African countries supported each other to overcome difficulties. During the most difficult period in China's fight against COVID-19, African countries provided China with valuable support, which will be engraved in the hearts of the Chinese people. Since the spread of COVID-19 to Africa, China also reached out to Africa at the very beginning, deploying 148 medical staff to 11 African countries to share experiences. More than 40 Chinese medical teams aiding Africa have organized over 400 training sessions for local medical staff.   

China-Africa cooperation in combating the COVID-19 is not an isolated event, but is part of a long history of China-Africa health cooperation, and its effectiveness is also based on the existing cooperation.  

In his speech, President Xi pointed out that the implementation of the FOCAC Beijing Summit initiatives will be accelerated, and greater priority will be given to cooperation on public health. There are two trends in China-Africa health cooperation: first, China will participate in the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters, which will be a step toward strengthening African public health system construction and talent training; and second, the two sides will strengthen the cooperation between Chinese and African partner hospitals. Moving from general medical aid to cooperation in key specialty areas, this approach is more targeted and effective, and will be helpful in improving Africa’s clinical specialty treatment capacity. 

 

A 12-member Chinese medical team from central China's Hunan Province arrives in Zimbabwe to fight against COVID-19 on May 12 (COURTESY)

Sustainable development 

China is not only concerned about Africa's current pandemic situation, but also African countries' economic recovery and long-term planning in the post-epidemic era. According to President Xi, to cushion the impact of COVID-19, it is important to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and accelerate the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit. Greater priority needs to be given to cooperation on public health, economic reopening and people's livelihood. 

Within the FOCAC framework, China will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020. 

As for the African countries that are hard hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress, China will work with the global community to lend them greater support, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tide over the current difficulties. The Chinese Government encourages Chinese financial institutions to respond to the G20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles to work out arrangements for commercial loans with sovereign guarantees.  

China's commitment to reducing African debt is the most tangible help to African countries. It will ease the impact of the pandemic on the African economy and contribute to its economic recovery.  

In addition, with the aim to help Africa achieve sustainable development in a long run, China is supporting Africa in its efforts to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area and to enhance connectivity and strengthen industrial and supply chains. China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new fields as digital economy, smart city, clean energy and 5G to boost Africa’s development and revitalization. These measures have set the tone for China-Africa cooperation in the post-epidemic era, and exemplify the determination to broaden the road of China-Africa cooperation under the new economic and social situation.   

Upholding equity and justice 

At the summit, President Xi said China will stay committed to upholding multilateralism. In the face of COVID-19, solidarity and cooperation is our most powerful weapon. China will work with Africa to uphold the UN-centered global governance system and support the World Health Organization in making greater contribution to the global COVID-19 response. The country opposes politicization and stigmatization of COVID-19, and decries racial discrimination and ideological bias.  

Facts show that strengthening solidarity and cooperation is necessary to face a global public health crisis. No country could tackle this pandemic alone, and the international community needs to be united more than ever. 

In all, the summit is of special significance as the pandemic continues to spread. In the short term, it will inject confidence and strength into the global fight against the pandemic and set an example for jointly coping with global health challenges under the new situation. In the long run, China-Africa solidarity will help enhance the influence and voice of developing countries in the field of global health, promote the utilization of international health resources in a more just and reasonable way, and safeguard the common interests of developing countries.  

The author is an assistant research fellow of Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (China-Africa Institute) 

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