China is There for Africans

China is There for Africans

by PD Lawton   24 March 2020

Back in January when Covid-19 was spreading across China, messages of solidarity were pouring in from Africans across the continent. Many events were held across Africa, such as `health walks`, to raise money and awareness of what the Chinese were going through.Concern for the Chinese people among so many Africans was a very real thing. In response to a message of solidarity from Namibia`s President Hage Geingob, Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Zhang Yiming said:

This is genuine support from real brother and sister and we value it. We cherish the support; it has given China great momentum to win this battle against the virus. The virus has no borders, we are in the same global village.”

The ambassador and head of the Chinese Mission to AU [African Union], Liu Yuxi, wrote earlier in March :

Since the outbreak of epidemic, AU and African countries have stood firmly with China. Many state leaders have sent messages or called us to support China’s fight. Governments and peoples of many African countries have offered assistance.

AUC [African Union Commission] chairperson Faki repeatedly expressed his solidarity with Chinese people. Some African students in China volunteered to go to the front line of this battle or worked as volunteers. The unbreakable shared future and profound friendship between African and Chinese is embodied in the action of our African friends. A friend in need is a friend indeed. We will cherish the generosity and brotherhood of Africa and keep them in mind forever.”

Now today it is beautiful to see how China is responding as Covid-19 hits Africa. It is not just the extraordinary efforts that the Chinese government is going to but also the Chinese private sector and Chinese individuals who are now reciprocating that solidarity.

On Wednesday 18 March a video conference was held by Bejing. Officials from China’s Public Health and Customs Departments, as well as medical experts were able to share information and advice with representatives from 24 African states. The conference successfully had 300 people joined by video link.

China`s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said :

China will continue to provide assistance within its ability and put into place health cooperation under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.”

According to Geng Shuang China has already provided testing kits and medical equipment to a number of African countries. Furthermore medical teams from China are actively helping and advising to control the spread of the pandemic.

Senegal was one of the first countries to react to the pandemic, closing public places, borders and grounding all but essential international flights. They copied China`s approach and also requested their help. Currently China is helping to convert a large sports arena in the capital, Dakar, into a field hospital, fully equipped in preparedness.

On the 23 March, President Macky Sall, declared a national state of emergency. He announced a 64 billion CFA ( 97.6 million euros)Solidarity Fund to support the economy and guarantee medical and food supplies. The hotel, restaurant, transport and press sectors will benefit from partial tax rebates.

Senegal is among the top 5 African countries most affected. The others being Morocco,Algeria, Egypt and South Africa.

The government has said that cases of covid-19 are rising and that it is no longer a question of `imported cases` but that the disease is now in communities. Between Friday and Sunday cases increased by 86%, 36 cases up to 67. The cases are not confined to Dakar but from other areas across the country as well.

On Sunday 22 March, a consignment containing 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 sets of protective face shields , arrived in Ethiopia. The emergency aid will be distributed as quickly as possible by Ethiopian Airways to 54 African states. The consignment is a donation from Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba.

Kenyan medical teams are now regularly getting on-line help directly from Wuhan. According to Wang Guan of the radiology department of Wuhan Union Hospital:

How to diagnose patients quickly and accurately is key to preventing the spread of novel coronavirus. In Wuhan, CT is widely used as an important diagnostic tool. We have rich diagnostic experience.”

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health Mutahi Kagwe said of China`s collaberation:

This is an extremely important step in terms of knowledge sharing and it gave us a tremendous amount of knowledge which we believe will also go a long way to assisting our people.”

In Zimbabwe the Chinese embassy has funded the equipping of Wilkins Hospital in Harare which is to be the country’s main isolation and treatment facility as part of a nationally co-ordinated plan for Covid-19.

The Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, said:

As a good friend and brother, China has been working closely with Zimbabwe from the very onset to keep the country safe from the virus.

At this testing moment for Zimbabwe, the Chinese government, business community, academia and people from all walks of life are eager to assist Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwe is not only grateful for the work at the hospital as well as donations of goods and equipment but particularly appreciate the scientific skills sharing from Chinese medical staff. Zimbabwean health minister Obadiah Moyo said:

We want to compliment the Chinese government for their scientific approach in solving the COVID-19″

In Liberia there are now 2 confirmed cases of Covid-19. The Liberian government have asked China for more collaberation to fight the disease. Liberia has already received on the 18 March, the first of several medical supplies donated by China. These include masks, protective clothing and gloves.

Troubled Libya could become one of the hardest hit countries. Restrictions were enforced on Monday 23 March. There are no confirmed cases as yet. The Libyan authorites have turned to China to collaberate with them in preparedness.Bard-Addin Al-Najjar, director of Libya’s National Center for Disease Control said:

“Beijing offered to help countries that have difficulty facing COVID-19. We want help from the Chinese experience and (we need) medical equipment,”

Namibia, which has a particularly strong relationship with China, will be receiving 1000 testing kits as part of its national preparedness program. China`s ambassador to Namibia has said:

We will offer and will do whatever we can to support Africa to strengthen the precautions.”

Earlier in March, Chinese medical teams worked together with Zambian officials to pre-warn Zambians of the dangers of Covid-19.

China is to start construction on a new facility for Africa`s CDC ( Centre for Disease Control) located in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. It is a personal flagship project of President Xi Jinping who views it as being extremely helpful as a means to address disease in Africa, thus increasing well-being and the dignity of life for all.

The above examples of how China is helping, or as their press prefers to say, collaberating with Africa, in the Covid-19 crisis are just a few specific examples as China are assisting everywhere and anywhere they can in Africa.

What is really helping, not just in this pandemic situation, is the Belt and Road Initiative. As regards this pandemic or any other health crisis the infrastructure being largely financed and constructed by China changes everything in terms of access, delivery and speed. Beyond a crisis, the Belt and Road Initiative is progressing in Africa to develop and transform economies in order that Africans can share the future with China, and the world, on an equal footing.

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