“No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China shall never waver in its determination to pursue greater solidarity and cooperation with Africa,”
- Xi Jinping, June 17, 2020 at his leynote address to African countries during the summit on cooperation to fight the Covid-19
By IKENNA EMEWU
China and African countries held a summit in an extraordinary manner and consistent with the trend of the time on Wednesday, June 17.
It was the first multilateral collaboration summit on covid-19 by the largest number of nations – Africa’s 54 countries and China.
The extraordinary summit was part of the landmarks of the viable Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), the multilateral union that turned 20 years in April 2020.
The workability of that collaboration goes a long way to save humanity especially with Africa’s public healthcare system as the weakest link in the world from the pandemic. That informed the importance the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Antonio Guterres and the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus accorded it as reflected in their addresses at the summit.
Both Guterres and Tedros delivered speeches at the summit and urged stronger ties between the two worlds and calling on other parts of the world to emulate such collaboration for faster solution to the ravaging pandemic.
Africa and China make up some 31% of world population with at least 2.7 billion people, therefore, any moves or efforts to bring them to work together against the global pandemic goes a long way to save a huge percentage of humanity from crises. That underscored the importance of that auspicious summit at a time it matters most.
Because of the restrictions in the world today on travels due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was a virtual summit that held online with the advantage of the internet.
In his speech Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the support the Chinese government has extended to African countries and in particular to Nigeria in the Covid-19 challenge. He said such efforts have strengthened those of the African countries including Nigeria to fight on, a gesture he said exemplified true and uncommon friendship.
During the summit, President Xi Jinping of China in his keynote address pronounced a lot of measures and palliatives for the African countries to assist them overcome the hazards of the pandemic.
Some of these measures were novel in the sense that no other countries of the world have taken such wholesome approach to assist any continent or countries.
He started with debt relief and rescheduling to material and expert assistance to these countries in their battle against the Covid-19 scourge.
President Xi admitted that China is aware of the hardship many African countries and indeed many countries of the world face in containing and combatting the pandemic and called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations to show more concern for Africa to help them overcome the challenges
Xi spelt out the aids to include material and medical support as well as debt relief
On a broader scale, the incentives and supports included:
- Full support to African countries’ to fight against the disease and continue to provide material support, dispatch medical teams and help representatives of African countries come to China to purchase medical materials,
- China to begin construction of the Africa CDC headquarters ahead of schedule this year, Xi said. He added that China will speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals.
- Pledge that once the development and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit,” Xi said.
- For African countries that are hardest hit by COVID-19 and under heavy financial stress, China will work with the global community to provide them greater support, such as by extending periods of debt suspension, to help tide them over their current difficulties, he said.
- Encourage Chinese financial institutions to respond to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles to work out arrangements for commercial loans with sovereign guarantees,” he said.
- Within the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation framework, China will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that mature by the end of 2020, Xi said.
- Further cooperation in jointly building the Belt and Road to cushion the impact of the disease. Greater priority needs to be given to cooperation in public health, economic reopening and people’s livelihoods, he said.
- Xi urged the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions to should act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for African nations.
- China will work with the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other partners to assist Africa’s response to COVID-19, and do it in a way that respects the will of Africa,” Xi said.
- China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new areas of business as the digital economy, smart cities, clean energy and 5G technology to boost Africa’s development and revitalization, Xi said.
- China will work with Africa to uphold the UN-centered global governance system and support the WHO in making greater contributions to the global COVID-19 response, he said, adding that China opposes politicization and stigmatization linked to COVID-19.