Leaders of China and African countries are set to have an extraordinary summit on solidarity against the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, a move that experts said demonstrates their joint efforts to build a community of common health based on the traditional China-Africa friendship.
President Xi Jinping will preside over the summit in Beijing and deliver the keynote speech, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
The summit, jointly initiated by China, South Africa－the rotating chair of the African Union－and Senegal, co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, will be held via video link, Hua said.
Leaders of African countries, including African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, members of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government and rotating chairs of major African subregional organizations, will attend the summit, the spokeswoman said, adding that United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will also participate.
The summit comes as the novel coronavirus pandemic is still surging globally and African countries are also challenged by the contagion due to weak public health systems on the continent. More than 250,000 people in Africa were reported to have been infected with the disease as of Tuesday, according to the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The summit takes place at a critical time and demonstrates again the importance of China and Africa working together to overcome difficulties, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.
Zhao said at a news briefing that the summit will help build up consensus between China and African countries in solidarity against the pandemic and boost their cooperation. It will also inject fresh impetus into support for multilateralism and strengthen international cooperation in combating the epidemic, he added.
Since the start of the epidemic, China and African countries have been supporting each other. Over 50 African leaders have expressed sympathy and support for China’s efforts in fighting the epidemic in various forms. China also delivered medical supplies and sent medical experts to African countries to help them combat the disease.
At the Extraordinary Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit held via video link in March, Xi called on the G20 members to “jointly help developing countries with weak public health systems enhance preparedness and response”.
Speaking at the Virtual Event of the Opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly on May 18, Xi announced that China will provide $2 billion over two years to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries.
Particularly, he said, China will establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of the Africa CDC headquarters to help the continent ramp up its disease preparedness and control capacity. It will also work with other G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative for the poorest countries to bolster support for the hardest-hit countries under the greatest strain of debt repayments, Xi said.
Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said at a news conference last week that China had announced the suspension of debt repayments for 77 developing countries and regions and the pairing-up cooperation mechanism between Chinese hospitals with 30 their counterparts in Africa is also being set up.
He Wenping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, said China has used concrete actions to demonstrate its commitment to building a community of common health for mankind and a closer China-Africa community with a shared future in the joint fight against COVID-19 with Africa.
Omer Gamar-Eddin, Sudan’s state minister for foreign affairs, told Xinhua News Agency, “We thank China for this medical assistance and for the visit of the Chinese medical team to a number of medical sites in Sudan.”