China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa in the wake of the Omicron variant. Of these, 600 million will be a pure donation and 400 million will be produced in partnership with African manufacturers. The nation pledged the doses alongside a large number of other investments and loans towards African countries, looking to continue to strengthen their trade bonds and boost the low immunization rates of the continent.
The news came while President Xi talked at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Diamniadio, Senegal, on Monday. Included in the speech were four main points that China was looking to strengthen in the continent, including fighting COVID in cooperation with Africa, expanding trade and investment into African economies, promoting green development, and "upholding equity and justice".
“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,” said Xi in a speech.
“To help the [African Union] achieve its goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the African population by 2022, I announce that China will provide another one billion doses of vaccines to Africa, including 600 million doses as a donation and 400 million doses to be provided through such means as joint production by Chinese companies and relevant African countries,” he continued.
“In addition, China will undertake 10 medical and health projects for African countries, and send 1,500 medical personnel and public health experts to Africa.”
It is currently unclear exactly what the terms behind the 400 million extra doses will be.
Regardless, the donations will come as a welcome help in the fight against COVID-19, and the new variant that is already spreading rapidly around southern Africa. While some countries within Africa are doing relatively well – in Morocco, for example, 61 percent are fully vaccinated – as a continent, many countries are struggling to even get one dose to their residents. Despite using 56 percent of their total vaccine supply, just 7 percent of the total population of Africa has been fully vaccinated.
Africa has been at the forefront of a fierce investment battle between the US and China for many years now, and since 2013, China has remained the single largest foreign direct investment source into the continent. The vast majority of these investments have been into the energy and travel sectors, with one-third of the entire electricity grid being financed by Chinese state-owned corporations.
The wealth of resources, strategic geographical locations, and labour make Africa a prime target for investment and finance agreements, and China looks to continue this initiative in the fight against COVID-19.