Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
African leaders on the platform of African Union, on Wednesday launched a platform called Africa medical supplies platform to beat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
This is even as Chinese President Xi Jinping, has announced the debt cancellation of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020.
The debt cancellation he said is within the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework, and is for those African countries that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress.
China, Jinping added, will work with the global community to give those countries greater support, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tide over the current difficulty.
The African Union Chair and South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa, announced the Africa medical supplies platform at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 (Video-Conference), also called on China to provide diagnostic and therapeutic supplies to the continent for the next six months.
The platform, according Ramaphosa, is meant to enable all African countries access critical supplies.
He said in his opening remarks at the submit co-hosted by himself as AU Chairperson, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Senegal President and co-chair of FOCAC Macky Sall: “As thing stand, however, many African countries are having to purchase goods with resources largely obtained from the multilateral agencies.
“We would like to ask China to consider support for the provision of diagnostic and therapeutic supplies over a period of six months. This support would be managed by AfriExImBank in collaboration with its counterpart in China. This would allow several African countries to procure goods from China.
The AU chairperson also called on China to support the call for the international community to avail some unused special drawing rights of about $100 billion for Africa.
“The AU has been in the forefront of mobilizing international support for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa.
“We have called for debt relief from African countries that are indebted, including a two-year debt standstill and a plan for the restructuring of both private and bilateral debt.
“To provide additional liquidity to shore up the private sector, Africa has called for the international community to avail some unused special drawing rights of about $100 billion for Africa.
“We urge China to support and contribute to this call, or to propose alternative options that can be considered on an urgent basis to help support the private sector,” Ramaphosa said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, also participated in the meeting, which was presided over by the Chinese President.
Jinping, in his opening remark, noted that China and Africa account for nearly one-third of the global population, pledging to step up support for Africa, adding that China will provide $2 billion over two years to support the work of WHO in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese President, noted that 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.
He called for a minute silence in honour of those who have tragically passed away due to COVID-19 and expressed condolences to their families.
He noted that both Africa and have withstood the test of a severe challenge.
According to Jinping, “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. In the same spirit, governments and peoples in Africa have put up a united front and, under the effective coordination by the African Union, have taken strong measures to effectively slow the spread of the virus. These are indeed hard-won results.”
He noted that in the face of COVID-19, China and Africa have enhanced solidarity and strengthened friendship and mutual trust.
“Let me reaffirm 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,” the Chinese President said.
He said COVID-19 is still affecting many parts of the world. Both China and Africa face the formidable task of combating the virus while stabilizing the economy and protecting people’s livelihoods. “We must always put our people and their lives front and center. We must mobilize necessary resources, stick together in collaboration, and do whatever it takes to protect people’s lives and health and minimize the fallout of COVID-19,” he said.
Jinping added, “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, and 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 and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals. 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.
“Second, we must stay committed to enhancing China-Africa cooperation. To cushion the impact of COVID-19, it is important to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation and accelerate the follow-ups to the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit. Greater priority needs to be given to cooperation on public health, economic reopening, and people’s livelihood.
“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. 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. 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.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, on his part, urged the international community to support collaborations and initiatives aimed at sharing knowledge from research and science to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
He pledged that Nigeria would support and join any joint and collective action plan at regional and global levels to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout.
”As we face a common pervasive and invisible enemy, it is important that we all remain united to save our shared humanity, because this virus knows no borders.
”The fight against a global pandemic that continues to take so many lives, threaten livelihoods and challenging the very fabric of societies, requires enhanced cooperation and worldwide solidarity.
”I seize this opportunity to reiterate the need for this Summit to put humanity at the centre of our vision for common prosperity.
”We must learn lessons and share knowledge from research, as we develop more creative, responsive and humane health systems, improve crisis management protocols and support each other in the battle against COVID-19,’’ he said.
Buhari also used the occasion to commend the Chinese government, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the World Health Organization for the respective actions and measures to help developing and middle-income countries in Africa to tackle the pandemic.
On the UN, the President praised the Secretary-General, for launching COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund for low and middle-income countries to tackle the health emergency, address social and economic consequences of the crisis and, strengthen the recovery efforts of most vulnerable countries.
The leadership of the global health body, WHO, was commended for its advice that enabled Nigeria take measures and enlighten its people on steps to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
Similarly, President Buhari acknowledged that Chinese support had tremendously strengthened Nigeria’s effort in combating COVID-19, adding that President Xi’s strong support has further demonstrated the spirit of solidarity and enhanced the bond of partnership that already exist among FOCAC Member-States.
President Buhari also provided an update on what his administration has done since the tragedy of the global pandemic hit the country.
”From the outset of the pandemic, we in Nigeria instituted strong surveillance and infection prevention as well as control measures and made provisions to strengthen our testing capacities.
”Several well-equipped treatment and isolation centers were set up across the country to increase bed capacity.
”In the spirit of international collaboration, medical experts in Nigeria participated by video link in learning and experience-sharing exercises organized by experts from various countries, including China”.
President Buhari, added that the Nigerian Government had trained several thousand healthcare workers, provided Personal Protective Equipment to ensure the safety of frontline workers, and offered incentives for their motivation.