China promises 1bn COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa

Nov 30, 2021: President Xi Jinping has said that China will offer one billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccine to African countries and encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than 10 billion in Africa over the next three years.

The promise of additional doses of the vaccine – the top of the nearly 200 million that China has already supplied to the continent – comes amid growing concerns about the spread of a new strain of the corona virus, called Omicron which was first identified in South Africa.

The Chinese leader said his country would donate 600 million doses directly. Another 400 million doses will come from other sources, such as investing in production sites. Xi’s pledge comes as part of a forum on trade and security between China and African states, held in the town of Diamenadio, near the Senegalese capital, Dakar. “We must continue to fight together against COVID,” Xi told the summit on Monday. “We must prioritize the safety of our people and close the vaccination gap.”

Beijing has also donated millions of doses of home-made Sinopharm vaccine to poor African countries since the outbreak of the pandemic. Critics, however, allege that a large number of Chinese are part of the diplomatic aggression.

Without elaborating, Xi said a Sino-African cross-border yuan center would be set up to provide a 10 billion credit line to African financial institutions. Xi said China’s total imports from Africa, a major source of its crude oil and mineral supplies, would reach 300 billion over the next three years, adding that the two sides would work together on health, digital innovation and trade and will cooperate in the fields of development and Green growth.

Beijing invests heavily in Africa, and is the continent’s largest trading partner with direct trade worth more than $200bn in 2019, according to the Chinese embassy in Dakar.

The forum in Senegal comes against the backdrop of growing animosity between Beijing and Washington following US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visit to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal this month. During the visit, Blinken discussed with leaders the development of local vaccine manufacturing sites, and pointed to the sometimes deep-rooted nature of the continent’s deep ties with China.

Last month, US President Joe Biden also announced vaccine donations to Africa, pledging to provide 17 million doses of the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.

At the forum, Senegalese economy minister Amadou Hott told attendees that a shift in the commercial relationship with China was needed – away from projects financed by African governments taking on large debts.

Beijing often faces accusations of “debt trap diplomacy” due to its scale of lending to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere, using its lender status to obtain diplomatic and trade concessions. 

Blinken, in his recent trip to Africa, made reference to the accusations without naming China explicitly, saying in an address in Nigeria that Africans have been “wary of the strings” that often come with foreign engagement”. China rejects the charges.

China denies the allegations.

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