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November 26,2021   By:China Daily
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Photo taken on Feb 25, 2021 shows a consignment of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China at an airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone. [Photo/Xinhua]
 
China's vaccine aid to Africa shows true spirit of cooperation as FOCAC nears
 
Nov. 26, 2021 -- COVID-19 vaccines from China have played an important role in saving lives and boosting the economic recovery from the pandemic in many countries in Africa, strengthening the friendship between China and the continent, experts and officials said.
 
Under a commitment last year to supply the vaccines as a public good, China has provided more than 1.7 billion doses to more than 100 countries, with Africa being a major recipient.
 
Many observers believe that the Chinese assistance rendered to Africa during the pandemic will be a focus of discussion at a major bilateral platform at the end of this month.
 
The Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, will be held in Senegal's capital Dakar on Monday and Tuesday.
 
It is taking place with many mindful that China's vaccine assistance to Africa has proved all the more vital given the struggle most African countries have endured to secure supplies, and vaccination rates are conspicuously low across the continent.
 
Zhang Chunyu, a researcher in African affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the COVID-19 vaccines have been a highlight in China-Africa cooperation during the pandemic, and they have contributed greatly to safeguarding the health of Africans and aiding the economic recovery of many African countries.
 
Zhang drew attention to how Africa is lagging far behind the rest of the world in COVID-19 vaccination.
 
Many countries in the continent are yet to vaccinate 10 percent of their populations. The World Health Organization has set an end-of-year target of 40 percent coverage for nations.
 
Zhang said that, in light of this yawning gap, China can help Africa make up the ground on vaccination rates. The scholar is among those who believe pandemic support for Africa will be an important area of discussion at the FOCAC meeting in Dakar.
 
"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a heavier impact on Africa, compared with other continents, and the backbone of many African countries' economies is the service industries and they have suffered greatly," he said.
 
By late October, China had provided COVID-19 vaccines to 50 African countries and the African Union, and sent medical teams to 17 African countries to help them combat the pandemic, according to the China International Development Cooperation Agency.
 
Sinopharm, a State-owned pharmaceutical company, alone has supplied more than 55 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Africa, the company said.
 
In many African countries where Chinese vaccines have been administered, infection rates of the novel coronavirus have decreased greatly.
 
In Ethiopia, statistics have shown that people who received the Sinopharm vaccine have a much lower chance of getting infected or severely infected with COVID-19 than other Ethiopians, according to the drugmaker.
 
Encouraging statistics
 
Those statistics are encouraging for many as the pandemic drags on.
 
"Vaccines are still the best weapons to fighting the pandemic, and they are most urgently needed in Africa as it lacks the ability to develop and produce the product itself,"Zhang said.
 
In Zimbabwe, where more than 95 percent of the administered vaccine doses are from China, sectors such as tourism are beginning to recover after widespread vaccinations. The city of Victoria Falls, one of the country's top tourism destinations, recorded the highest hotel occupancy in more than a year and a half, after the vaccination rate topped 77 percent.
 
In addition to providing vaccines to the continent, China has also cooperated with some African countries to produce the jabs locally in order to accelerate vaccinations.
 
In Egypt, Vacsera, a major vaccine producer, has been cooperating with China's Sinovac Biotech to produce its COVID-19 vaccine, and it is expected that 200 million doses will be produced annually at Vacsera's factory for local needs. The company also plans to expand production in order to supply countries across Africa.
 
Wang Yunping, a researcher in global health governance at the China National Health Development Research Center, said that by providing assistance to Africa in fighting COVID-19, China has deepened its commitment to build a health community with a shared future for mankind. With China's actions, the Sino-African friendship has become even stronger.
 
Hopes are high that the spirit of cooperation will inspire even more progress at the Dakar gathering.
 
FOCAC was formally inaugurated at its first ministerial conference in October 2000 in Beijing, under a joint initiative between China and Africa. The FOCAC members include China, the 53 African states that have established diplomatic relations with China, and the Commission of the African Union.