China promises debt relief to African countries as part of COVID-19 support


China promises debt relief to African countries as part of COVID-19 support
President Uhuru Kenyatta attends a virtual summit convened by China on June 17, 2020. PHOTO| PSCU

President Xi Jinping of China on Wednesday assured African countries that his country will continue supporting COVID-19 containment measures on the continent.

Speaking during an extra-ordinary China-Africa Summit on solidarity against COVID-19, President Xi said China’s support for Africa during the current health crisis will include debt relief in line with the G20 moratorium and the FOCAC framework.

The virtual summit was convened by China, South Africa and Senegal. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is the current Chairperson of the African Union while Senegal’s Macky Sall is the Co-Chairperson of the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC).

The Chinese leader said his country will continue providing technical and material support needed to defeat the virus in Africa.

He assured African leaders that his government will ensure Africa is among the first to benefit from the COVID-19 vaccine once it is rolled out.

President Kenyatta, who attended the summit in his capacity as a member of the Bureau of the Assembly of the AU Heads of State and Government thanked China for the COVID-19 related support given to African countries including Kenya.

“I wish to thank the Chinese government for the swift response to provide Kenya and the rest of the continent with medical supplies including testing kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), and pharmaceuticals to help us fight, not just the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the locust invasion,” President Kenyatta said.

President Xi said “China will never waver in its pursuit for greater solidarity with Africa”.

He urged African leaders to stick together in upholding multilateralism and oppose the politicization and stigmatization of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Also top of the Chinese help for Africa will be the fast tracking of the construction of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) headquarters and support for projects aimed at enhancing intra-Africa connectivity.

Inorder to aid African economies recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic, the Chinese leader said his government will support programmes aimed at strengthening value chains on the continent.

President Kenyatta identified loss of jobs and reduction of revenues as key impacts of COVID-19 on African economies and appealed for more economic interventions by China.

“Given the scale of economic devastation in the continent, I would like to call on China to further deepen debt relief measures and to consider trade concessions, to provide African countries with the breathing room they need for economic recovery,” President Kenyatta said.

He called for the strengthening of Africa’s health systems saying the continent’s weak health infrastructure is a setback in the fight against COVID-19.

“I am aware strengthening of public health systems is one of the pillars of the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC). As the pandemic has demonstrated, this is a critical agenda, which has not received the attention it deserves,” President Kenyatta said.

Speaking on behalf of the East African Community (EAC) where he is the current Chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame thanked the Chinese government for committing 2 billion US Dollars to the global fight against COVID-19 over the next two years.

The African Union Chairperson and co-convenor of the virtual summit President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said the continent had acted decisively and in unison in its response to COVID-19.

He said the continent will on Thursday launch the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), an online portal that will enable African countries access large quantities of critical COVID-19 response supplies at competitive prices.

The South African leader called on the Chinese government to consider supporting African nations with six months worth of equipment and other supplies through the AMSP. The AMSP is supported by the Afrexim Bank.

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