Experts: Fighting COVID-19 key to deepening China-Africa cooperation

The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has just kicked off in Dakar, Senegal, with the COVID-19 pandemic, infrastructure and trade topping the agenda.

Fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic will be a major focus in the next three years of cooperation between China and Africa, according to Liu Hongwu, director of the Institute of African Studies of Zhejiang Normal University. 

"China has already achieved steady progress in helping African countries combat COVID-19. In the future, more will be done," said Liu. 

"China will provide more effective testing equipment, train more local medical workers, and accelerate the construction of health centers in Africa. It's especially important to help enhance the governance capability of African countries, because COVID-19 not only is a health crisis, but also calls for more coordinated governance."

According to a newly-released white paper on China-Africa cooperation, China had provided 120 batches of test chemicals, protective gear, masks and ventilators to 53 African countries since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Addressing the opening ceremony of this year's forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide an additional one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa, including 600 million as donation and 400 million to be provided through such means as joint production by Chinese companies and African countries.

The aim is to help the African Union achieve its goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the African population by 2022, Xi said.

Joint production of vaccines is of great significance to improve the capability to fight against COVID-19 in Africa, said Li Yong, a senior fellow at the China Association of International Trade. "There is a joint production facility in Egypt. China has also signed two separate agreements with Morocco and Algeria to build joint production bases," Li added.

On Friday, the African Union Commission marked structural completion of the main building of the China-aided future headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the first modern Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa and is expected to play a vital role to help the continent combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to healthcare, China has also helped African countries build 13,000 kilometers of roads and railways in the past two decades. And Liu said both sides should fully take advantage of the infrastructure capability.

"Take railways for instance. Long-term operation and maintenance are needed – that means we need to improve the operation capability after the construction. Transportation universities and colleges should be established to train technicians and skilled workers. Developing production capacity along the railways is also important, so the railway line will not only be a transportation line, but also an economic growth belt," Liu said.

He added that China and Africa should also explore new areas to improve the quality and effectiveness of their cooperation. "In recent years, there's been a huge demand for the digital economy and green development throughout Africa. These sectors have great potential. Moreover, there are so many young fast learners in Africa. They can play an important role in future innovative development."

Liu emphasized that over the past 70 years, China and Africa have been pushing their cooperation forward, regardless of changes in international politics.

"Under the circumstances of the changing international situation, China and Africa should further strengthen and coordinate the cooperation. Through our strong relation, we can send a message to the world that the only way to tackle COVID-19 and other challenges is by working together," he said.

(CGTN's Huang Yue contributed to the story.)

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