The Global Pandemic of COVID-19 and China-Africa Medical & Health Cooperation
Since the COVID-19 became a global health crisis, there have been 53 African countries reporting confirmed cases. Currently, all cross Africa has almost 43000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and around 1800 death cases. South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are the most severely hit African countries by the epidemic, with each having the confirmed cases between 4000 and 6000. Regarding the sub-regional situation, Northern Africa and Western African are mostly affected by the virus. The Covid-19 is probably the biggest event of 21st century after the outbreak of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and global financial crisis in 2008-2009, and has had significant implications on the international situation and China-Africa relations. The World Health Organization (WHO) and global public opinion have a common concern that Africa might become the next or the third epicenter of the pandemic after China, Europe and America have experienced the first two waves of strike by the Coronavirus, respectively.
In the process of global fight against the Covid-19，Africa and China have again shown the fraternal solidarity and the spirit of mutual assistance. When China was firstly hit by the epidemic in January and February, Africa Union and all the African countries having diplomatic ties with China expressed, in the first place, their sympathy and support toward China, and were convinced that China would most certainly win the battle against the virus. Many African nations, Morocco included, donated money and medical supplies to China. The general public of Africa, and its diaspora and student community in China all voiced their enthusiastic support to encourage China to hold on. Many of them even volunteered to join the fight against the pandemic in China. Likewise, since the emergence of the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on February 14 in African continent, China took swift actions to deliver assistance to African countries. Through bilateral and multilateral channels (such as WHO, African Union, African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention etc), China has provided several rounds of capital and numerous essential medical supplies to all the African countries including the masks, face shields, test kits, protective clothing, medical gloves, ventilators, thermometer guns, goggles, infrared thermometers, and other diagnostic instruments and equipments. China dispatched epidemiologists to African CDC and medical teams to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, to assist their fight against the virus. China also held video conferences with African countries’ health officials and medical professionals, to share Chinese experiences of controlling the contagion. Jack Ma, the renowned Chinese entrepreneur and Alibaba public welfare fund have provided lots of medical goods and materials to 53 African countries, and established a digital platform to train the medical professionals from all over the world including African countries. Numerous Chinese enterprises and citizens stationed in Africa have also actively tried their best to help their hosting countries to fight against the disease. During the whole process, we could witness and feel the empathy between China and Africa regarding the common suffering of and fight against Covid-19. China considers helping Africa as helping herself, and vice versa. There are many touching stories regarding the China-African joint battle against the epidemic. He Xiaona, a female Moroccan PhD candidate studying at Wu Han University, chose to stay at Wuhan when China was at the most difficult time of the pandemic, and donated 5000 RMB to aid China’s anti-epidemic efforts. Her acts of kindness and solidarity were widely spread and circulated in Chinese mainstream media and social media platforms, and moved many Chinese people. Similar cases are numerous in China and Africa.
The above joint efforts against Covid-19 are only the latest episode of a long-term medical and health cooperation between China and Africa, which has lasted almost 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and constituted one of the core components of China-Africa partnership. In 1963, China dispatched her first medical team to the newly independent Algeria. Since then, more and more Chinese medical teams have been sent to and worked in different corners of the continent. Chinese medical team has become the domain of covering the most widely African population, and the most effective and lasting form in terms of Sino-African health cooperation. Currently, there are almost 1000 Chinese doctors and nurses served in different medical teams in around 45 African countries, treating patients and saving lives. In addition to the medical teams, China has actively assisted African countries to improve their medical infrastructure, such as building at least one hundred hospitals and anti-malaria centres in Africa. China has also done a lot of work to cultivate African medical students, transfer medical know-how to African professionals, control and prevent the different infectious diseases in Africa such as yellow fever, bilharziasis, cholera, malaria, HIV-Aids and Ebola etc. China-African medical & health cooperation also occurs in other wide areas, such as women and children fitness, cataract therapy, construction of specialized medical departments, and pharmaceutical factory investment etc. During the outbreak of Ebola epidemic in 2014 in Western African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, China was among the first nations to rush to the rescue. It dispatched 16 batches of clinic and public health experts with more than 1200 person-times to these three countries, provided four rounds of urgency humanitarian medical aid with a total value of 0.75 billion RMB, assisted the construction of biosafety laboratory and Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone and Liberia respectively, and played a significant role to win the battle against Ebola in West Africa. Currently, China is aiding in the construction of African CDC headquarter compound in the south of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The latter includes the emergency response center, information & training center, conference center, laboratory, library, press room, office building and expert apartments etc. Upon completion, it will facilitate the African Union to play a greater & better role in terms of the medical and health coordination, organization and emergency management at the continental level. All of above-mentioned history and common efforts indicate that China has been sincere and serious in promoting the health and life safety of African people, and has remained committed to this cause for almost six decades. Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000 in Beijing, China and African countries upgrade their cooperation level every three years. That attracts and promotes the whole international community to attach greater importance to African development and increase their inputs to Africa accordingly. All these will definitely ameliorate and improve the status of Africa in the international system, and represent a better and broader prospect for African development. China is more than happy to see this phenomenon.
Fairly to say, the mainstream of public opinions from both the Chinese and African side has been positive and constructive towards the long-term history of the bilateral health cooperation and the current joint battle against the Covid-19. However, we have also witnessed that, recently, there existed some skepticism and criticism of voices toward China’s anti-coronavirus efforts and China-African cooperation in this regard. These kinds of negative voices and opinions appear not only in the West media and some African media, but also in the social media platforms both in Africa and China. There are especially plenty of fake news and videos spreading and circulating in the social media platforms, smearing and demonizing China’s image and efforts in countering the Covid-19, which inevitably have had negative influences on many audiences in Africa and China. Their views and perceptions on China and Africa would thus become more negative. This is really unfortunate, frustrating and disturbing. The mutual knowledge and understanding between Chinese and African populace are quite limited, which will make them more vulnerable to biased reporting and strengthen their respective stereotypes toward each other. Hence, a lot of works need to be done in this regard to promote the people-to-people exchanges and mutual understanding, so as to narrow and mend the perception gap between China and Africa.
The Covid-19 is a new virus which threatens every one’s life of the whole world. The scientists and epidemiologists are still researching the cure and developing the vaccine against it. The virus knows no boundary and becomes the common enemy of our humankind. In the face of such threat and challenge, no country could manage alone or stand aloof. Politicizing the epidemic and playing blame games won’t do any good to combat the virus now. Keeping solidarity and promoting international cooperation is the only correct choice not only for China and Africa, but also for the whole international society. The top priority for China-African anti-COVID 19 cooperation is to prevent and control the continuous spread of the virus, and save people’s life and dignity. In the Post-COVID 19 period, China and Africa should strive to relaunch and strengthen the comprehensive cooperation, so as to recover their respective economy as soon as possible.