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Published On: Thu, May 7th, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic and Sino-Africa Cooperation

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By Sheriff Ghali Ibrahim

The ambiance of states within the framework of international relations is that states shift in alliances and in relationship as there is no permanent friend or enemy but a permanent interest.
This has influenced international politics since Westphalia and subsequently in the post-second World War and Cold War order. International relation is inherently determined by divergent forces part of which is history, interest, identity and ideas.
The inter-continentalism and inter-governmentalism that sway China-Africa chemistry has been conditioned and cushioned by history, where the two parties shared similar colonial experience, belonging to third world global polarisation and the old aged relation that is traceable to Bandung.
The interest of China and Africa are not less than partnership for growth, development and prosperity, where the two sides supported each other even at the United Nations.
Their identity is mirrored on the economic conditions of the two sides where they have been battling with poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, industrial and technological break-through.
China has succeeded in crossing the hurdles and now Africa needs to learn from China on how to cross such hurdles either in the same way or as differently did by the Peoples Republic. Some of the areas that Africa needs to learn on how to improve from China were highlighted as part of the Johannesburg action plan of the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in South Africa.
These areas of learning and cooperation included (a) industrialization (b) Agricultural modernisation (c) Public health (d) Green development (e) Exchanges (f) Fighting poverty (g) Trade and investment facilitation (h) Financial services (i) Infrastructure construction, and (j) Cultural relations.
Cooperation in the fight against COVID-19 is in line with the third area of experience learning and China-Africa cooperation which identifies cooperation in public health. China has a history of playing significant role in the African health sector for example the 100 healthcare workers sent to assist Algeria in 1963, spending an estimated $35 million on health-related projects in Africa in 2006, building health facilities, donating supplies, granting funds and providing medical staff to assist in dealing with health challenges in Africa.
It is in line with the cooperation benefits between the two sides that China promised to help African countries fight the Covid-19, the disease caused by the new corona virus, as confirmed cases in the continent rose six fold in less than a week.
The cooperation was manifest in the meeting held between Chinese health and customs experts with 300 officials and health care specialists from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and 24 African countries via video conference to share China’s experience in combating the deadly pandemic.
The Foreign Ministry of China revealed that the Chinese experts detailed the trend and features of the pandemic and shared their country’s experience and practices in epidemic control and clinical treatment. They also fielded questions from African doctors and leaders.
The People’s Republic of China sees no boundaries in the fight against such global pandemic as it tries to manifest the Belt and Road spirit of inclusive global prosperity and a shared future with all nations on earth, consequently, since 1 March, the country has shipped €1.33bn worth of various medical supplies (3.86 billion masks, 37.5 million protective clothing items and 16,000 ventilators, according to Chinese customs authorities) to more than 80 countries, including African countries.
At the end of March, each country on the continent also received 1,000 protective suits, 20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks, as promised by the Jack Ma Foundation, a charitable organization created by Alibaba’s super-rich founder, and delivered with the strong backing of China’s local Ambassador.
The Telecommunication giant Huawei is distributing supplies and checks in the various countries where it operates and China Merchants imported 1 million masks to Djibouti. Construction giant CSCEC sent more than €420,000 worth of supplies to Algeria and Hunan Construction did the same for Senegal.
The month of April marked the beginning of China donating actual, clearly targeted bilateral aid to Africa, where Democratic Republic of Congo received 65 tones of testing supplies and protective gear, Ethiopia received more than 1 million tests and 6 million masks, and a field hospital was set up in Algeria and Zimbabwe. On 6 April, an Air China plane landed in Accra to unload several tens of tones of supplies, which were then redistributed in 18 countries namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi said China had so far provided 2,000 diagnostic kits through the African Union and 10,000 kits and other medical equipment were on their way to Africa. Embassy spokeswoman Huang Xueqing said the kits would first go to the Africa CDC or African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which would then distribute them to other African countries in need.
One aspect that should be learnt from the Chinese is orderliness, sincerity and honesty in providing the assistance to Africa. This was evident in the distribution process when Ma said a total of 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 medical-use protective suits and face shields would be delivered to ¬Addis Ababa, where Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy ¬Ahmed would take the lead in ¬managing logistics and ¬distribution to the ¬other African countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is offering support and resources to African countries, especially South Africa, in their fight to control the COVID-19 epidemic. China state media said Xi recounted during a phone call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa how South Africa reached out to Beijing to offer support in the early stages of China’s corona virus battle.
Xi designated that China will share its experience in trying to prevent and control the corona virus and strengthen the cooperation with South Africa in healthcare. Xi is also urging Chinese nationals in South Africa to lend their support to the country’s anti-epidemic initiatives.
A team of Chinese medical professionals have also arrived in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city with medical equipment worth about 1.5 million US dollars. The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, whiles welcoming the 15-man team said it is time to “reciprocate the friendship and kindness” offered by Nigeria. The value of the equipment, medical supplies is about $1.5 million, and including transportation cost, it’s around $2 million, the Ambassador disclosed.
It is in this fruitful and enviable relation that some people castigate such cooperation due to some intervening variables either emanating from China or Africa, especially in the recent events that unfolded in the mainland, such as the issue of harassing Africans.
It is without consternation that every society has written laws and regulations where all citizens and visitors are expected to obey. The Chinese people are law-abiding people, peaceful and hospitable. The government has been able to establish this due to stringent laws governing the behavior of individuals, groups and organizations.
If you are in Rome as the saying goes, you should behave like the Romans and Africans were never maltreated in China without breaching the laws of the peoples Republic.
The cases of Visa expiration and failure to abide by the rules have always resulted in getting the Africans in miserable situations which always necessitated by crimes committed in another man’s land. The Chinese have always been reiterating that Chinese nationals should be punished in Africa as they break the laws of the land and cases in Uganda and Nigeria among many have been treated involving the Chinese according to our laws.
Diplomacy seeks to develop friendly relations and political rapprochement not expanding the scope of hostility and antagonism between and among nations. When Nigerians and other African nationals were being attacked in South Africa, the ultimate political motive was not to have a diplomatic debacle with South Africa but a solution to the contending problem.
Media propaganda and the attempt to vitiate the good relations between China and Africa are on the rise. There is the need to further sensitise and promote people to people exchanges to deconstruct what the media has been invariably building as fake news and to internalise the fact that the only opportunity Africa has now is to learn from the Chinese model of development through consultation, diplomacy, exchanges and further cooperation for true mutual benefits and win-win engagement.

Sheriff Ghali Ibrahim is from Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja

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