The Chinese government says Beijing is stepping up support for Africa’s post-pandemic recovery, with initial focus on vaccine access, as a “public good”
The details emerged on Friday in a series of public comments by Chinese officials who argue that Africa’s recovery will also ensure the world defeats Covid-19.
At the UN Security Council, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China sees Africa’s ability to manage Covid-19 as crucial in helping the world recover its global trade and economy.
Mr Wang, who was chairing a virtual session of the Council on Peace and Security in Africa, called for vaccine access at the right prices, as well as technological transfer to help the continent beat the pandemic.
“Sending aid to Africa is important, but aid alone cannot solve Africa’s vaccine shortage issues,” he told the council’s Open Debate on Addressing Root Causes of Conflict in Post-Pandemic Recovery in Africa, on Thursday.
“We must support local manufacturing of vaccines in Africa, even though this is difficult due to the levels of industrialisation.”
The council, a 15-member organ, is the most powerful organ of the UN.
During the ‘open debate’, Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said the pandemic had worsened poverty on the continent, warning of possible instability.
“The post-pandemic recovery plans for Africa should be ambitious in prioritising investment in livelihoods, job creation, and investment in youth,” he told the council, representing Kenya, which is a non-permanent member.
Mr Kagwe called on members to fully fund the Covax facility, formed to enable access to vaccines by the poor countries, and supported the waiver of intellectual property rights that will enable more widespread vaccine manufacturing, including in Africa.
Africa has been the least affected by Covid-19 but its poor health system has seen experts warn there could be a disaster were the continent to be excluded from sufficient access to the vaccines.
China has vowed to provide vaccines to at least 45 countries in Africa and has been buoyed by the move by the World Health Organization to approve, for emergency use, two of its vaccines – Sinovac and Sinopharm.
It provided a licence to the Egyptian government allowing it to start producing Sinovac from next month. Under the deal, Egyptian scientists will also benefit from training and technical support necessary to produce the jabs.
Cairo and Abu Dhabi in the UAE will also be permitted to distribute its locally produced jabs to the Middle East and Africa.
In Nairobi, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian said China sees vaccine access as the first step in recovery, adding that the continent will need support in other areas slowed down by the pandemic.
“Vaccines for the pandemic are a public good and China supports access to the vaccines,” Zhou told a group of journalists.
“Our domestic demand is huge but we are striving to balance that with the needs of our friends in Africa. As you may know, Chinese vaccines have been under intense scrutiny and it has showed that they are safe everywhere they have been used,” he said at his residence in the city.
China says it has vaccinated at least 450 million people in a country with about 1.4 billion. Its local firms say they will produce under three billion doses this year, under the current production capacities, forcing Beijing to cooperate with overseas producers.
Zhou said the production arrangements will not be “one-way initiatives”, suggesting that China will support African producers willing to take up the task of plugging the shortage.
But he argued the storage requirements for Chinese vaccines, stable at between 2Co and 8C0, makes their vaccines suitable for Africa’s tropics.
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At the UN Security Council, China fronted a joint initiative with the African Union, known as the “Partnership initiative to support Africa’s development”.
In a statement to the council, Wang said rich countries should beef up support for Africa in such areas as fighting the pandemic, post-pandemic recovery, trade and investment, debt relief, food security, poverty reduction and alleviation, climate change, as well as industrialisation.
“We should channel resources to where they are most urgently needed in Africa and help it overcome difficulties and move forward,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“China welcomes more countries and international organisations, especially Africa’s traditional cooperation partners, to join this initiative, adhering to the principle of ‘Africa-led, equal-footing and openness’, strengthening coordination and cooperation, committing to real multilateralism, so as to gather the strong force to support Africa’s development.”