A virtual Extraordinary China-Africa Solidarity Summit against Covid-19 was co-hosted by the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the AU. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS
A virtual Extraordinary China-Africa Solidarity Summit against Covid-19 was co-hosted by the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the AU. Picture: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

China has moved heaven and earth to help African countries fight Covid-19

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 8, 2021

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Helmo Preuss

Although there were isolated outbreaks of xenophobic attacks against Africans in China due to the fake news that Africans were spreading the Covid-19 virus in the early part of 2020, China has since then moved heaven and earth to help Africans combat the virus and provide much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to health-care workers in African countries.

As the so-called “factory of the world”, China has supplied more PPE and sanitising material to African countries than any other country.

To strengthen the ties between Africa and China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on official visits to Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Botswana and the Seychelles from January 4 to 9.

The visit to African countries at the start of the year is a tradition that goes back to January 1991, and is aimed at consolidating the solidarity between African people and Chinese people.

It is also a striking example of how highly the Chinese value their relationship with Africa.

This year’s visit, in particular, is aimed at supporting African countries in economic recovery, debt relief and the fight against the epidemic, as well as promoting the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

The effort to fight the pandemic goes back to the early part of 2020.

Dr Kerrigan McCarthy, of the Division of Public Health, Surveillance and Response from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said on February 24 that South Africa had been lucky in that no cases had then yet been diagnosed in our country, which allowed the government to proactively prepare for a possible outbreak.

She was addressing the first conference on the coronavirus in South Africa, which was a two-day event held in Pretoria.

She said a national response team had been convened on January 24, the day after Chinese health authorities placed the city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, under quarantine.

This was six days before the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

On that day, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize declared a Public Health Emergency in South Africa and activated the Emergency Operations Centre. An Incident Management Team was then constituted the following day, and has met daily since then.

The first case in South Africa was diagnosed on March 5, 2020, and currently the number of cases here has exceeded 1 million.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were in early communication with each other, and jointly initiated the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against Covid-19.

In the early stages of the pandemic, when China was the epicentre, South Africa provided valuable moral and material support, and many South African enterprises made generous donations to China.

In return, China donated more than 6 million masks and hundreds of thousands of detection reagents, as well as ventilators, PPE suits and other anti-pandemic materials worth millions of rand.

More importantly, they shared their knowledge on how to prevent infection and how to treat patients who had to be admitted to hospital.

Shared knowledge and shared resources are the most powerful weapons against the virus.

Both China and South Africa firmly uphold multilateralism and support the WHO in its role as the leading authority in co-ordinating the global anti-pandemic efforts, and mobilising the international community to share resources and knowledge.

China’s participation in the WHOled Covax alliance shows China’s concrete commitment to the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

China has also replenished pandemic consumables such as nucleic acid extraction reagents to South Africa and strengthened co-operation in vaccine research and development.

In addition to co-operation in the health arena, the two countries are strengthening their co-operation in other sectors such as the digital economy, 5G, big data, artificial intelligence and clean and renewable energy technologies.

Due to the restrictions imposed on international travel and meetings, Chinese and South African leaders have been forced to reach consensus on the way forward to benefit their people via a series of virtual meetings, such as the BRICS leaders’ meeting and the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

* Helmo Preuss is an economist at Forecaster Ecosa.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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