Xi Jinping promises one billion more vaccines for Africa in the wake of Omicron

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

Xi said 600 million doses would be donated, while the rest would be produced jointly by Chinese enterprises and African countries, without providing details. He was speaking via video at the 8th Triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the Senegalese city of Diamandio on Monday.

“We must put people and their lives first, be guided by science, support the waiving of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines in Africa to bridge the vaccination gap,” Xi said in a speech. must ensure access and affordability.” ,
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According to Beijing-based, China has already sold 136 million vaccine doses to Africa and has pledged 19 million to charity Bridge Consulting, which matches deliveries via government press releases and news reports. Beijing has distributed 107 million of those doses and another 11.6 million through the Covax initiative, the consulting firm said on Monday.

Xi said Beijing will offer a $10 billion line of credit to African financial institutions and encourage its firms to invest at least $10 billion in the continent over the next three years. It would provide $10 billion in trade financing to support African exports to China, rising to $300 billion over three years, and give African countries the country’s International Monetary Fund special drawing rights – $10 of an international reserve asset. billion will be allocated.

The two-day conference comes as African countries grapple with the devastating fallout of the pandemic, which are at increased risk from the detection of the Omicron strain. As Africa’s largest trading partner, China has an important role to play in the continent’s economic recovery.

Lina Benbadallah, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, said: “Xi Jinping’s keynote address focused on the most immediate concern for the continent, namely the lack of vaccines to combat the pandemic, especially the new version of the pandemic. in the light.” , He said his vaccines pledge was the biggest ever pledge for Africa.

Since 2006, China has doubled its investment pledge for Africa every three years at the FOCAC summit, which was Beijing’s main vehicle for managing its relationship with the continent. It closed in 2018 when Xi matched China’s previous $60 billion pledge, as the world’s second-largest economy came under fire for troubling developing countries with unsustainable levels of debt.

Tchandarou Nitanga / AFP via Getty Images Workers unload boxes of nearly 500,000 donated doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in Burundi’s economic capital Bujumbura on October 14, 2021.

China’s relations with Africa

Senegalese President Mackie Sall said China’s relations with Africa have been “tested by the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I urge China to continue supporting the continent by reallocating its SDR to the IMF,” he said, addressing the gathering ahead of Xi’s speech.

Beijing has emerged as the world’s largest non-commercial international creditor over the past decade, with its state-owned policy banks lending more to developing countries than the IMF and the World Bank. This lending has been subject to international scrutiny that has intensified as the pandemic forced dozens of countries to suspend loan repayments.

Xi has taken a personal interest in the platform, addressing or attending the inauguration ceremony since coming to power. Earlier, China sent its premiership to the summit when it happened in an African country. China and the continent host alternately.

But when 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 a few days before the event began, causing countries around the world to ban travelers from several African countries.

Xi did not leave home in 681 days, performing all diplomatic duties by phone or video link, a byproduct of China’s strategy to completely eliminate cases of COVID-19. This has limited their ability to hold face-to-face meetings on the sidelines of major events that can help reduce tension.

Apart from Sal, other African heads of state were notably absent from the event, although South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi made video addresses.

The summit comes a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled US intent to revive its long-neglected ties with Africa, where it continues to lose influence over China and other global 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 two-way trade. Relations reached a low level during President Donald Trump’s tenure, during which he made derogatory remarks about African countries and high-level diplomatic engagements were few and far between.

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