Xi Jinping Pledges a Billion More Vaccines for Africa in the Wake of Omicron

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to supply another 1 billion doses of vaccines to African countries, as the world’s poorest continent grapples with the emergence of a new and potentially more transmissible Covid-19 variant.

Xi stated that 600 million doses would be given away, while other parts will be produced jointly by African and Chinese companies. He did not provide details. He spoke by video Monday at the eighth triennial Forum on China/Africa Cooperation, in Diamniadio (Senegal),

“We need to put people and their lives first, be guided by science, support waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and truly ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa to bridge the immunization gap,” Xi said in a speech.
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China, which is based in Beijing, has pledged to donate 19 million dollars and sold Africa 136,000,000 vaccines. Bridge ConsultingThis site tracks delivery numbers through news stories and government press releases. According to the consultancy firm, Beijing delivered 107,000,000 doses of the drug and an additional 11.6 Million through Covax.

Xi announced that Beijing will provide a $10B credit line to African financial institutions and urge them to invest at minimum $10B in Africa over the next three year. It will also provide $10 billion in trade financing to support African exports to China rising to $300 billion over three years, and allocate $10 billion of the country’s International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights — an international reserve asset — to African nations.

Two-day conference will be held at a moment when African countries are dealing with the devastation caused by the pandemic. This could also be exacerbated by detection of the Omicron strain. China as Africa’s biggest trade partner has an important role to play in the continent’s economic recovery.

“Xi Jinping’s keynote speech focused on the most immediate concern for the continent, namely the shortage of vaccines to combat the pandemic, especially in light of the new variant,” Lina Benabdallah, assistant professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University, said. She added that his vaccines promise was Africa’s largest.

Since 2006, China had doubled its investment pledge to Africa every three years at the FOCAC summit, Beijing’s main vehicle for managing its relationship with the continent. That stopped in 2018 when Xi matched China’s previous pledge of $60 billion, as the world’s second-largest economy came under fire for saddling developing countries with unsustainable levels of debt.

TCHANDROU NITANGA/AFP via Getty Images Workers unload boxes of about 500,000 donated doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in Bujumbura, the economic capital of Burundi, on Oct.14, 2021.

China’s relationship with Africa

Senegalese President Macky Sall said China’s relationship with Africa had been “tested by challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“I urge China to continue to support the continent by reallocating its SDR from the IMF,” he said in his opening address to the gathering, which preceded Xi’s speech.

Beijing has emerged in the past decade as the world’s largest non-commercial international creditor, with its state-owned policy banks lending more to developing countries than the IMF and World Bank. This lending is subject to scrutiny from all corners of the globe, which intensified after the Pandemic that caused many countries to stop paying their debts.

Since his rise to power, Xi took an interest in the forum and has addressed or attended the opening ceremony. China sent its leader to previous summits that were held in African countries. China hosts the summit while Africa takes turns hosting.

Xi kept up his online tradition and attended the meeting in person. A few days prior to the event started, the omicron variation was found in Botswana as well as South Africa. Countries around the globe banned travelers from many African nations.

Xi hasn’t left home in 681 days, pivoting to performing all diplomatic duties by phone or video link, a byproduct of China’s strategy to completely eliminate cases of Covid-19. His inability to attend face-to–face meetings at major events, which could help reduce tensions has been limited.

Apart from Sall, African heads-of-state were not present at the event. But Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Egypt) gave video addresses.

The summit comes the week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled the U.S.’s intention to revitalize its long-neglected relations with Africa, where it has steadily been losing influence to China and other global powers.

Africa has always been near the bottom of the U.S. foreign-relations priority list, with the world’s poorest continent accounting for less than 2% of its total two-way trade. Relations reached a low ebb during President Donald Trump’s tenure, during which he made disparaging remarks about African countries and high-level diplomatic engagements were few and far between.


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