By Lizzy Okoji
The President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, has assured African countries that they would be among the first countries to benefit from a coronavirus vaccine being developed by China.
The Embassy of China in Nigeria made the pledge in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to the statement, Jinping made the pledge in his keynote address on Wednesday in Beijing at the virtual extraordinary China-Africa Summit with African Presidents on solidarity against COVID-19.
He said that listing African countries as first beneficiaries of its vaccines was part of China’s support to Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining that effective response called for solidarity among world leaders.
“First, we must stay committed to fighting COVID-19 together. China will continue to do whatever it can to support Africa’s response to COVID-19.
“China will lose no time in following through on the measures I announced at the opening of the World Health Assembly.
“We will continue to help African countries by providing supplies, sending expert teams and facilitating Africa’s procurement of medical supplies in China.
“China will start ahead of schedule, the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year.
“China 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.
“We will also speed up cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals and together, we will build a China-Africa community of health for all.
“We pledge that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.’’
Jinping noted that in the face of COVID-19, China and Africa had offered mutual support to each other and that China would remember the invaluable support from Africa at the peak of its coronavirus battle.
He added that when Africa was struck by the virus, China was the first nation to rush in assistance and had since stood firm with the African people.
Jinping stated that COVID-19 was still affecting many parts of the world, stressing the need for both China and Africa to face the task of combating the virus while stabilising the economy and protecting people’s livelihoods.
He stressed the need for leaders to mobilise necessary resources, stick together in collaboration and do whatever they could to protect people’s lives and health.
The Chinese president noted that greater priority needed to be given to cooperation on public health, economic re-opening and people’s livelihoods.
Jinping stated that through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework, China would cancel debts of some African countries in the form of interest-free loans, due to mature by the end of 2020.
“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.
“We encourage Chinese financial institutions to respond to the G-20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles.”
Jinping said that China would work with the UN, WHO and other partners to assist Africa’s response to COVID-19 and do it in a way that would respect the will of Africa.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that participants at the virtual summit included, President Muhammadu Buhari, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chair of the African Union, among others.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus were invited as special guests to the summit.