Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
4 minute read
1 Dec 2021
6:00 pm

Shunned by western countries over Omicron, Africa gets a boost from China

Brian Sokutu

'We wish to thank the People’s Republic of China for its unwavering support to Africa since the onset of the pandemic,' said Ramaphosa.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (on the screen) delivers his speech during the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on November 29, 2021. - China's President Xi Jinping on November 29, 2021 pledged to offer one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa, in a speech made via videolink to a China-Africa summit near Senegal's capital Dakar. (Photo by SEYLLOU / AFP)

Shunned by western countries who have closed their borders on Africa in the aftermath of the emergence of the latest Covid-related Omicron variant, China has pledged a multi-billion-dollar programme for the continent, with President Xi Jinping unveiling a 10-point blueprint during his speech at this week’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Senegal.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, currently on a four-nation West African tour – referring to the travel restrictions placed on South Africa after its reporting of the presence of Omicron, said: “We need to resist unjustified and unscientific travel restrictions that only serve to further disadvantage developing economies.

“We wish to thank the People’s Republic of China for its unwavering support to Africa since the onset of the pandemic.

“We are confident we can continue to count on China’s support in the continental vaccine acquisition drive.”

ALSO READ: China leader promises Africa 1 billion Covid vaccine doses

In unveiling his grand plan for Africa, Jinping, said that in the run-up to FOCAC, the Chinese and African governments had jointly prepared the China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035.

Under its first three-year plan, Jinping said China would work closely with African countries to implement nine programmes, which would cover:

  • Medical and health – a billion Covid vaccine doses to be delivered to Africa, coming in the form of 600m doses as donation and 400m doses to be provided through joint production by Chinese and African countries.
  • Poverty reduction and agricultural development – measures would include China undertaking 10 poverty reduction and agricultural projects for Africa, and sending 500 agricultural experts to the continent.
  • Trade promotion – aiming to reach $300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years, with measures including opening “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China, speeding up inspection and quarantine procedures; and further increasing the scope of products enjoying zero-tariff treatment for the least developed countries that have diplomatic relations with China.
  • Investment – China would encourage its businesses to invest at least $10 billion in Africa in the next three years, establishing a platform for China-Africa private investment promotion.
  • Digital innovation – China would undertake 10 digital economy projects for Africa, set up centres for China-Africa cooperation on satellite remote-sensing and support the development of joint laboratories, partner institutes; scientific and technological innovation cooperation bases. This would also include online shopping festivals promoting African products and a campaign to market 100 African stores and 1000 African products on e-commerce platforms are promised.
  • Green development –  China would undertake 10 green development, environmental protection and climate action projects for Africa, support the development of the “Great Green Wall”, and build centres of excellence on low-carbon development and climate change adaptation in the continent.
  • Capacity-building – projects would include the building or upgrading of 10 schools in Africa, inviting 10 000 high-level Africans to training programmes and promoting vocational training.
  • Cultural and people-to-people exchange – Chinese tourism in African countries would be promoted and facilitated.
  • Peace and security – China would undertake 10 peace and security projects for Africa. It would continue to deliver military assistance to the African Union – support African countries’ efforts to independently maintain regional security, fight terrorism and conduct joint peace-keeping exercises. 

Speaking at the eighth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Jinping’s four proposals on building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, addressed the common aspirations of the two sides – answering the pressing task, fundamental path and goal of building a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era; and point out the right direction for the development of China-Africa relations.

The announced China vaccine package for Africa was the largest aid to be announced by a single country, since the outbreak of the pandemic and a great endeavor in global anti-epidemic cooperation, poised to inject strong impetus into the elimination of the “immunisation gap” in Africa and the global fight against Covid.

brians@citizen.co.za