By Samuel Itsede
Chinese President, Xi Jinping has announced plans to cancel the debt of African countries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese president made this pledge Wednesday during an extraordinary China-Africa Summit on solidarity against COVUD-19.
The summit which was jointly proposed by China; South Africa, the rotating chair of the African Union (AU); and Senegal, co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was held through video conference. Participating were African leaders, members of AU assembly. The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the World Health Organization acting as special guests.
President Xi in his keynote address noted that China remains committed to enhancing China-Africa cooperation and was willing to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on African countries, through proactive measures that include debt cancellation and enhancing Africa’s disease response capability.
On debt cancellation, President Xi said 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”.
The gesture he said would be carried out through the FOCAC framework and would be extended to African countries hardest hit by the coronavirus and under heavy financial stress.
President Xi also assured that China will direct its financial institutions and work with other G20 nations on the suspension of debt payment by African countries.
“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.” He said.
Speaking on the continent’s state of preparedness for disease control, Xi stated that China would work with African countries to work ahead of schedule and speed up the completion 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”. He said.
He also assured that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine were completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.
He pledged China’s determination to continue to deepen its relationship with African countries in the face of COVID-19.
“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”.
Xi also pledged to help Africa achieve sustainable development within the framework of the African Continental Free Trade Area and to enhance connectivity and strengthen industrial and supply chains. “China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new business forms as digital economy, smart city, clean energy, and 5G to boost Africa’s development and revitalization”.
The Chinese leader also called for the sustenance of multilateralism and global solidarity in the face of COVID-19 noting that “solidarity and cooperation is our most powerful weapon”. He reaffirmed China’s commitment to work with Africa to uphold the UN-centered global governance system and support WHO in making a greater contribution to the global COVID-19 response. “We oppose politicization and stigmatization of COVID-19, and we oppose racial discrimination and ideological bias. We stand firm for equity and justice in the world”. He said.