By YI FAN
The world will never be the same after COVID-19. Yet in a world changed and changing in ways unseen before, certain things do endure. The fraternity between China and Africa is one of them. Forged in the early nationhood of the People’s Republic of China and African countries, such friendship has grown into a towering tree defying winds and rains over the decades.
And certainly, it will not be deterred by COVID-19. From 4 to 9 January 2021, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi started his official visits to the world with a five-nation tour to Africa, a proud tradition upheld by every Chinese foreign minister over the past 30 years. Rain or shine, China and Africa are always there for each other. President Xi Jinping visited Africa on his maiden foreign trip in 2013. Many African leaders, like Tanzanian founding father Julius Nyerere, visited China quite a few times. From building TAZARA to fighting Ebola, China never hesitates to step in for African brothers and sisters. From applauding China’s return to the UN to rebutting unfair accusation against China, Africa always stands with China.
The timing of Foreign Minister’s visit cannot be more relevant: 2021 is an anniversary year of diplomatic ties between China and several of the five African countries; the concluding year for the follow-through of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit; and, most importantly, a year when solidarity is vital for humanity to emerge from the challenges of our lifetime.
True friends don’t leave each other at the sign of danger, according to an African proverb. When the world is in the depth of winter, due to a coronavirus which no one knew before, solidarity between China and African countries sends a warm spring breeze. For China, it is a snowfall of goodwill letters from African leaders and assistance in kind, priceless as an expression of friendship. For Africa, it is the medical supplies and professionals sent from China in addition to the online experience sharing sessions that China held with African friends.
For example, when Botswana detected its first COVID case last March, China was among the first to send medical supplies. Last September, a 46-member Chinese medical team braved the pandemic to begin their two-year long work in Botswana. At the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone and the Nyangabgwe Hospital in Francistown, the Chinese doctors threw themselves into the treatment of urgent cases, including a little boy with acute abdominal disease, often before the patients were tested COVID-positive. It was more than courtesy when Sethomo Lelatisitswe, Botswana’s assistant minister of health and wellness, once commented this, “Botswana will forever cherish the assistance from China”.
Now, with China and Africa working together to make vaccines more affordable and accessible in the developing world, there is a greater chance for humanity to prevail over this trying time.
But the world needs to look beyond the pandemic. China is pursuing national rejuvenation and a better life for its people. So is Africa. With the African Continental Free Trade Area taking off on 1 January 2021 and China reinforcing its domestic market and the international one, a lot more can be done by the two coming together. When it comes to getting things done, China and Africa are no talkers but doers: an MOU was signed between China and Nigeria during Foreign Minister Wang’s visit to spearhead bilateral cooperation across the board; Chinese companies like Huawei have been helping with ICT training for the next-generation Nigerian talents; D.R. Congo and Botswana became the 45th and 46th members joining the big family of Belt and Road cooperation; a grand blueprint has been drawn up for China-Tanzania cooperation in infrastructure, human resources training, investment and trade; a demonstration zone of South-South cooperation on climate change will be built to support climate change response in Seychelles, a paradise on the Indian Ocean.
Heading to a shared future with their strengths combined, China and Africa can work together toward: a healthy Africa with greater public health capacity, an Africa strong in manufacturing, a connected Africa with across-the-continent infrastructure, trade and financial links, a green Africa that prospers while preserving its grasslands, mountains and lakes, a digital Africa that thrives on the fourth industrial revolution, a bumper African harvest for all Africans, a secure Africa where guns are silenced and peace restored, and an Africa drawing on a greater pool of professional talents.
Sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith. This is the guiding principle set out by President Xi Jinping during his visit to Tanzania in 2013. Up to date, China has built for Africa 6,000 kilometers of railways, the same mileage of highways, over 130 medical facilities and more than 170 schools. China sees to it that every promise be turned into real results.
When the world today suffers the greatest recession since the 1930s, what else is more needed than solidarity and partnership? When the 1.4 billion Chinese and 1.3 billion Africans prosper together, humanity will have a brighter future.
In the 21st century, as in the past, a closer China-Africa community is a force for good for this world.