China has said it will forgive African countries their interest-free loans for the year while it pledged to reinforce its African allies’ medical resources as the continent battles the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to attendees at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against the Covid-19 Pandemic in Beijing on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said via video link that in line with the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, all interest-free loans owed to China for 2020 would be cancelled.
Between 2000 and 2017 China lent US$143 billion to Africa, according to a Johns Hopkins University report. However analysts have pointed out only a fraction of these loans are interest-free.
Xi’s declaration comes a week after China said it would delay the loan repayments of 77 countries, some of them African, as part of its G20 commitment to international cooperation in the battle against the global pandemic.
While speaking about financial relief in Africa, Xi asked major Chinese financial institutions like the Export-Import Bank of China and China Development Bank to re-evaluate commercial sovereign loan arrangements with their African partners.
Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa and current chair of the 55-member African Union, emphasised the need for immediate medical relief.
South Africa, whose economy is expected to shrink up to 4.5% percent in 2020, is the current epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa with more than 80 000 confirmed cases. The South African leader asked Xi to provide medical assistance for the next six months.
Xi reaffirmed China’s ongoing commitment to aiding its African partners and announced the imminent construction of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Addis Ababa. Xi also vowed to hasten the completion of several hospitals under construction in Africa.
Xi said he would continue sending Chinese doctors and medical technicians to Africa, where healthcare systems have been under increasing pressure in recent weeks.
China currently has multiple vaccine candidates in late-stage trials. Xi assured Africa that it would be among the first to benefit once China successfully mass-produces a safe, effective vaccine.