China to offer one bn Covid vaccines to South Africa

Beijing: China’s president pledged to offer Africa one billion Covid vaccine doses on Monday, with the continent struggling to acquire enough jabs to immunise against the disease.

In a speech made via videolink to a China-Africa summit near Senegal’s capital Dakar, President Xi Jinping said his country would donate 600 million doses directly.

A further 400 million doses would come from other sources, such as investments in production sites, which are sorely lacking across much of Africa.

Xi’s promise comes as part of a forum between China and African states with an emphasis on trade and security, among other issues, held in the city of Diamniadio near Senegal’s seaside capital.

China invests heavily in Africa, and is the continent’s largest trading partner with direct trade worth over $200 billion in 2019, according to the Chinese embassy in Dakar.

Beijing has also donated millions of doses of its home-produced Sinopharm vaccine to poor African countries since the start of the pandemic.

Critics charge that China’s largesse forms part of a diplomatic offensive, however.

We must continue to fight together against Covid, Xi told the summit. We must prioritise the protection of our people and close the vaccination gap.

Vaccination rates in Africa are low compared to the rest of the world, with many states at the mercy of foreign donations due to the lack of local production facilities and prohibitive costs of mass purchases.

The summit in Senegal follows a visit this month from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, against a backdrop of growing rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

Blinken discussed boosting local vaccine-production sites with leaders during the visit, and alluded to the sometimes fraught nature of the continent’s deep relationship with China.

 

Agency