China solidarity buoys Africa in virus battle
Xi's speech provides inspiration for efforts against pandemic, experts say
China's and Africa's commitment to strengthen their collaboration in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has great significance in helping African countries defeat the virus and rebuild their economies, experts said.
Nkolo Foe, a professor at the University of Yaounde I in Cameroon, told a forum, held via a videoconference, that he was impressed by how China, after quickly defeating the virus within its borders, decided to launch a "gigantic crusade" against COVID-19 to help the world eradicate it.
The country has pursued this goal by offering "material and financial support for the various nations of the world, regardless of ideological choices or the nature of the political regimes in force", said Foe, who is a former vice-president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.
An international symposium focused on a keynote speech by President Xi Jinping at the recent Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 was held by the China-Africa Institute on Tuesday. During the speech, Xi assured African countries that China would continue to support COVID-19 containment measures on the continent.
Foe appreciated that Xi in his speech made a strong plea for multilateralism and pointed out that solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons to defeat the virus.
"These remarks are made at the very moment when centrifugal forces are working to weaken global health governance," he said, citing what he termed the vile attacks against the World Health Organization by some Western countries.
He said the politicization of the virus and geostrategic considerations may hamper international cooperation efforts, and it is fortunate that "China and Africa have made the opposite choice by working together to preserve the system of global governance centered on the United Nations".
Moreover, work towards a COVID-19 vaccine and effective treatments have become even more urgent with the rapid progression of the pandemic in many parts of the world, said Foe, noting this need highlighted the value of the China-Africa partnerships in countering the coronavirus.
"Africa remains one of the least-affected continents for the moment, but the situation can get out of hand at any time," he said.
But African countries "can already rejoice that China has decided to make its future vaccine against COVID-19, a 'public good'", as announced by Xi, Foe said. This would ensure the accessibility and affordability of a future vaccine for the benefit of the greatest number.
He is also glad to see that China will remain steadfast in supporting Africa's industrialization while battling COVID-19, citing China's vow to support Africa in building a continental free-trade area and its efforts to strengthen connectivity and improve industrial and supply chains.
Gao Xiang, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that when the pandemic first hit China, African countries offered China valuable moral and material support. As the pandemic takes its toll in Africa, China has unveiled a series of measures to help Africa, including providing technical and material support and debt relief for many countries.
"Xi's speech, in emphasizing multilateralism and cooperation in the global fight against COVID-19, has pointed out the direction for China and Africa to be further united in the fight against the epidemic and has injected strong positive energy into the global fight against the virus."
He said China and Africa should work together to push forward the high-quality development of the Belt and Road Initiative in order to reduce the economic and social impacts of the epidemic.
"African people generally believe that China sincerely cares for Africa and makes an important contribution to the prevention and control of the pandemic in Africa," he said."China-Africa cooperation will help defeat the pandemic, lead to the recovery of the economy ravaged by the virus, and get people's lives back to normalcy."
Sande Ngalande, director of the Belt and Road Joint Research Center of the University of Zambia, said that even as China battled the coronavirus at home, it didn't ease up on the development of the BRI in Africa. Rather, Xi advocated the strengthening of BRI collaboration and to give greater priority to cooperation on public health, economic reopening, and people's livelihoods.