Saturday, January 22

Xi promises a billion more vaccines for Africa

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to supply another 1 billion doses of vaccines to African countries as the world’s poorest continent grapples with the emergence of a potentially more transmissible new variant of Covid-19.

Xi said 600 million doses will be donated, while the rest will be produced jointly by Chinese companies and African countries, without providing details. He spoke via video at the eighth triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the Senegalese city of Diamniadio on Monday.

“We need to put people and their lives first, be guided by science, support the waiver of intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, and truly ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa to close the gap in immunization, “Xi said in a speech. .

China has already sold 136 million doses of vaccines to Africa and has pledged 19 million in donations, according to Beijing-based Bridge Consulting, which counts the deliveries through press releases and government press reports. Beijing has delivered 107 million of those doses and another 11.6 million through the Covax initiative, the consultancy said on Monday.

Beijing will offer African financial institutions a $ 10 billion credit line and encourage their companies to invest at least $ 10 billion in the continent over the next three years, Xi said. It will also provide $ 10 billion in trade financing to support African exports to China amounting to $ 300 billion over three years, and will allocate $ 10 billion from the country’s International Monetary Fund special drawing rights, a reserve asset. international, to African nations.

The two-day conference takes place as African countries grapple with the devastating consequences of the pandemic, which is at risk of being exacerbated by the detection of the omicron strain. China, as Africa’s largest trading partner, has an important role to play in the continent’s economic recovery.

“Xi Jinping’s opening speech focused on the most immediate concern for the continent, namely the shortage of vaccines to combat the pandemic, especially in light of the new variant,” said Lina Benabdallah, assistant professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. . Its vaccine promise was the largest ever made in Africa, he added.

Since 2006, China had doubled its investment commitment to Africa every three years at the FOCAC summit, Beijing’s main vehicle for managing its relationship with the continent. That came to a halt in 2018 when Xi matched China’s previous pledge of $ 60 billion, as the world’s second-largest economy came under fire for burdening developing countries with unsustainable levels of debt.

Difficult friendship

Senegalese President Macky Sall said China’s relationship with Africa had been “tested by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“I urge China to continue supporting the mainland by reallocating its SDRs from the IMF,” he said in his opening speech to the meeting, which preceded Xi’s speech.

Beijing has emerged in the last decade as the world’s largest international non-commercial creditor, and its state-owned public policy banks make more loans to developing countries than the IMF and World Bank. That loan has been subject to international scrutiny that has intensified as the pandemic caused dozens of countries to suspend debt payments.

Xi has taken a personal interest in the forum, addressing or attending the opening ceremony since he came to power. Previously, China had sent its prime minister to the summit when it took place in an African country. China and the mainland take turns hosting.

But while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended in person, Xi continued his recent tradition of appearing virtually. The omicron variant was identified in Botswana and South Africa days before the event began, prompting countries around the world to ban travelers from various African nations.

Xi has not left home in 681 days, and has moved on to perform all diplomatic duties by phone or video link, a byproduct of China’s strategy to completely eliminate Covid-19 cases. That has limited your ability to hold face-to-face meetings on the sidelines of important events that can help ease tensions.

African heads of state other than Sall were notably absent from the event, although South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi made speeches on video.

The summit comes a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled the United States’ intention to revitalize its long-neglected relations with Africa, where it has been losing influence over China and other world powers.

Africa has always been at the bottom of America’s foreign relations priority list, with the world’s poorest continent accounting for less than 2% of its total round-trip trade. Relations reached a low point during President Donald Trump’s tenure, during which he made disparaging remarks about African countries and high-level diplomatic engagements were few and far between.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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