By Amin Kef Sesay
An Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 was held on the 17th June 2020 in Beijing with the theme “Defeating COVID-19 with Solidarity and Cooperation”.
Among those in attendance were President Cyril Ramaphosa, President Macky Sall, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
The President of the People’s Republic of China, H.E Xi Jinping started by stating that this is a critical moment in the global fight against COVID-19 which is why they are gathered in a Summit revealing how old and new friends are connected via video link to discuss their joint response to COVID-19 and also to renew the fraternity between China and Africa.
The Chinese President thanked President Ramaphosa of South Africa and President Sall of Senegal for joining him in initiating the Summit, and expressed appreciation for the participation of colleagues present while at the same time sending his regards to other African leaders not able to be present.
“The sudden onslaught of COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on countries around the world, with the loss of several hundred thousand precious lives. Here, I suggest that we observe a moment of silence for those who have tragically passed away due to COVID-19 and express our condolences to their families,” H.E Xi Jinping paid respect to the departed.
He continued that in the face of COVID-19, China and Africa have withstood the test of a severe challenge underscoring how the Chinese people have put up a fierce fight and made enormous sacrifice to bring the situation in China under control.
“Still we remain mindful of the risk of a resurgence,” he expressed caution adding that in the same spirit, Governments and peoples in Africa have put up a united front stating how under the effective coordination by the African Union, they have taken strong measures to effectively slow the spread of the virus which, he said, are indeed hard-won results.
He informed the Summit that China and Africa have offered mutual support and fought shoulder to shoulder with each other stating how China shall always remember the invaluable support Africa gave China at the height of battling with the coronavirus. He pointed out that in return, when Africa was struck by the virus, China was the first to rush in with assistance and has since stood firm with the African people.
President Jinping maintained how China and Africa have enhanced solidarity and strengthened friendship and mutual trust further reaffirming China’s commitment to its longstanding friendship with Africa.
“No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China shall never waver in its determination to pursue greater solidarity and cooperation with Africa,” he asserted.
He reminded all how COVID-19 is still affecting many parts of the world also intimating how both China and Africa face the formidable task of combating the virus while stabilizing the economy and protecting people’s livelihoods.
The President told the gathering that they must always put their people and their lives front and center, must mobilize necessary resources, stick together in collaboration, and do whatever it takes to protect people’s lives, health and minimize the fallout of COVID-19.
He stated that in achieving that, first they must stay committed to fighting COVID-19 together, that China will continue to do whatever it can to support Africa’s response to COVID-19 and they will lose no time in following through on the measures he announced at the opening of the World Health Assembly, and continue to help African countries by providing supplies, sending expert teams, and facilitating Africa’s procurement of medical supplies in China.
The President continued that China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year and will work with Africa to fully deliver the health care initiative adopted at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals.
“Together, we will build a China-Africa community of health for all and pledge that once the development as well as deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit,” he assured.
He enjoined all to stay committed to enhancing China-Africa cooperation noting that to cushion the impact of COVID-19, it is important to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and accelerate the follow-ups to the FOCAC Beijing Summit.
“Greater priority needs to be given to cooperation on public health, economic reopening, and people’s livelihood,” he went on.
He said within the FOCAC framework, China will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free Government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020.
The President stated that for those African countries that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress, China will work with the global community to give them greater support, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tide over the current difficulty.
“We encourage Chinese financial institutions to respond to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles to work out arrangements for commercial loans with sovereign guarantees,” he intimated.
He maintained that China will work with other members of the G20 to implement the DSSI and, on that basis, urge the G20 to extend debt service suspension still further for countries concerned, including those in Africa.
H.E Xi Jinping said China hopes that the International Community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa. China, he informed, will work with the UN, WHO and other partners to assist Africa’s response to COVID-19 and do it in a way that respects the will of Africa.
“To help Africa achieve sustainable development is what matters in the long run,” he said adding how China supports Africa in its effort to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area and to enhance connectivity and strengthen industrial and supply chains.
He noted that China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new business forms as digital economy, smart city, clean energy, and 5G to boost Africa’s development and revitalization.
“Third, we must stay committed to upholding multilateralism,” he furthered maintaining how in the face of COVID-19, solidarity and cooperation is a powerful weapon.
He promised that China will work with Africa to uphold the UN-centered global governance system and support WHO in making greater contribution to the global COVID-19 response.
“We oppose politicization and stigmatization of COVID-19 and we oppose racial discrimination and ideological bias but stand firm for equity and justice in the world,” he affirmed.
Jinping stated that they must stay committed to taking China-Africa friendship forward maintaining that the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century.
He highlighted that given the new opportunities and challenges they face, closer cooperation between China and Africa is needed, more than ever.
“On my part, I will stay in close touch with all of you, my colleagues, to consolidate our friendship and mutual trust, support each other on issues involving our respective core interests, and advance the fundamental interests of China and Africa and, for that matter, of all developing countries,” he told the august body stating that they will be able to take the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership to a greater height.
He said that at the FOCAC Beijing Summit, they agreed to work together to build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future.
“Today’s Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 is our concrete step to deliver the commitment we made at the Beijing Summit and to do our part in the international cooperation against COVID-19.
I am convinced that humanity will ultimately defeat the virus, and that the Chinese and African people are poised to embrace better days ahead,” he concluded.