China and Africa have deepened their cooperation as they fight against the novel coronavirus hand-in-hand
China and African countries have forged close ties during their national independence and liberation struggles, as well as endeavors to pursue prosperity and development. Following the guidelines of President Xi Jinping’s Africa policy featuring sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, China has been working alongside Africa to build a community with a shared future and the two sides have entered the best period in the history of their relations. Facing the most severe global public health crisis since the end of World War II, the peoples of China and Africa are tiding over the difficulties and striving to overcome hand-in-hand.
We will not forget the moral support and material assistance received from the African Union and African countries during China’s most difficult phase in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Nor will we forget their opposition to some countries’ politicization and stigmatization of the virus. African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat expressed his solidarity with the Chinese people soon after the pandemic broke out in China.
Foreign ministers of African countries also expressed support for China during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU in February. Though in difficulty themselves, countries such as Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, and Djibouti provided funds and materials to China to help it in its fight against the virus.
“Fear not the want of armor, for mine is also yours to wear.” As in this line from an ancient Chinese poem, China has fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Africa, sending medical assistance immediately after the pandemic hit the continent.
President Xi expressed condolences for lives lost to the virus during phone calls to his African counterparts and also called for more aid from the international community to support Africa’s anti-pandemic efforts during the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit and the 73rd World Health Assembly. He also advocated the opening of the China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19.
The Chinese government has provided surgical masks, protective suits, testing kits and more to over 50 African countries, and sent medical experts to help 13 African countries fight against the virus. It has held more than 30 videoconferences to share anti-pandemic experiences with African healthcare experts, mobilized Chinese medical teams stationed in Africa to take part in local anti-pandemic efforts, and facilitated African countries’ purchasing of anti-pandemic materials in China.
Within the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), 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. It will also work with other countries to give greater support to the African countries hardest hit by the coronavirus and under heavy financial stress by further extending the period of debt suspension. The Bank of China has already extended to the African Export-Import Bank an extra loan fund of $200 million.
Amity between people is the key to sound relations between states. The time-honored friendship between the two peoples has deepened thanks to the common fight against the pandemic. African students and people studying in China have shown solidarity with China following the outbreak, with some even volunteering to go to the frontline to combat the virus. Their courage has warmed the hearts of the Chinese people. On the Chinese side, civil organizations and enterprises have lent a helping hand to African countries by donating money and materials, helping renovate designated COVID-19 hospitals and providing technical support. The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation alone donated to African countries 10.6 million masks, 2.6 million testing kits, 1 million surgical gloves, 460,000 protective suits and face shields, 4,000 thermometers and 800 ventilators.
As the pandemic rages across the world and caseloads mount rapidly in Africa, we face an uphill task. Meanwhile, the “political viruses” of prejudice, stigmatization and shifting blame are also spreading, and the world is seeing a surge in isolationism, unilateralism and populism that hinder the international community’s anti-pandemic efforts. China and Africa should set an example by fighting the virus with solidarity and concerted efforts.
The two sides should firmly defend fairness, justice and multilateralism, support the World Health Organization as the leader and coordinator of global anti-pandemic efforts and uphold the international system with the United Nations at the core. China will keep supporting Africa’s fight against the pandemic and lose no time in following through on the measures announced by President Xi at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly. It will also start construction of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention Headquarters ahead of schedule.
China will work with Africa to fully deliver the healthcare initiative adopted at the Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2018, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals. Together we will build a China-Africa community of health for all. While fighting the virus, China and Africa also face the challenging task of promoting economic development. As prevention and control measures have become a new normal, the two sides should accelerate the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit and strengthen Belt and Road cooperation. We should nurture the new industries and new business models that have emerged during the pandemic and accelerate the development of the digital economy in Africa. We should expand cooperation in telemedicine, remote education, 5G and big data. China supports Africa in its effort to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area, and in its efforts to enhance connectivity and build industrial and supply chains for sustainable development.
On Aug 11, the Chinese Mission to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa held the China-Africa Webinar on Solidarity against COVID-19. African attendees spoke highly of the two sides’ concerted efforts and expressed gratitude to China for its rapid, strong and sustained support. I believe the China-Africa relations will become even stronger through the test of the pandemic, and the friendship between the two peoples will become closer.
The author is the ambassador, head of Mission of China to the African Union and representative of the China to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.