Commuters stand in a line to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus from spreading as they proceed to a ferry in front of a police officer wearing a mask at the Likoni ferry terminal, in Mombasa on March 27, 2020. - The Kenyan government put measures at the terminal in place, where thousands of people cross daily, including mandatory use of masks, deployment of armed police officers and reducing number of people boarding a ferry. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s Assistance to Africa’s Fight Against Epidemics

I   Overview of the outbreak in Africa

  • As of April 16, 2020, there have been more than 17,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,000 deaths across the continent.  
  • The outbreak of Covid-19 has spread to 54 African countries, leaving only two countries—Comoros and Lesotho—with no confirmed cases yet reported.  
  • The most severe reported outbreaks have been in South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Cameroon and Tunisia, each with more than 500 confirmed cases.
  • Some experts say that the actual number of infections in Africa is greatly underestimated due to testing capabilities and other reasons.  On April 16, 2020, WHO officials said models suggested that the number of confirmed cases in Africa could reach 10 million within three to six months.  
  • At the time of the outbreak, only two African countries—South Africa and Senegal—had virus detection capabilities. As of April 15, the WHO reported that 44 African countries can test for COVID-19. On average, there are only two doctors per 10,000 people, and less than one hospital bed per 1,000 people.
  • As of April 5, 43 of the AU’s 55 member states had completely sealed borders and seven had stopped international navigation.

II  Overview of China’s assistance to Africa’s fight against the epidemic

  • China has nearly one thousand medical workers who have been working in Africa since 1963, when China sent its first medical teams to Algeria.
  • The National Health and Family Planning Commission has guided medical teams to support the presence of the epidemic prevention and control in African countries. Thus far, they have carried out more than 250 various types of training and health education activities, training more than 10,000 people, and issued more than 800 multilingual announcements and prevention and control guidelines, covering much of the continent.
  • China has set up a team of remote experts to conduct technical exchanges with 54 countries in Africa through remote video conferencing.
  • On March 18, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Health and Family Planning Commission held a video conference with officials and health experts from 24 African countries as well as the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention to share information and experience on the fight against the epidemic.
  • On March 22, The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation donated significant quantities of medical supplies, bringing 5.4 million masks, 1.08 million kits, 40,000 protective clothing and 60,000 protective masks to Africa to support 54 African countries in the fight against the epidemic.
  • On March 24, Liu Yuxi, head of the Chinese mission to the African Union, and Amira, a member of the African Union’s Social Affairs Committee, signed a certificate for the handover of the second batch of testing reagents.
  • On April 6, a shipment of Chinese medical aid arrived in Ghana. In addition to Ghana, the supplies will be transferred here to 17 other countries to help fight the Covid-19 outbreak. The supplies include ventilators, N95 masks, protective clothing, gloves and other medical equipment and protective equipment.
  • Chinese medical aid to South Africa arrived at South Africa’s Johannesburg International Airport.
  • On April 16, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated “China will help the poorest countries to focus their efforts on fighting the epidemic and supporting economic and social development, in accordance with the G20 consensus on the debt issue, and will continue to actively participate in the international community’s anti-epidemic cooperation through other bilateral channels.”
  • On 16 April, in accordance with the deployment of the inter-ministerial coordination mechanism for foreign assistance, the Civil Aviation Authority coordinated air transportation arrangements for two charter flights to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia for the transport of medical experts and anti-epidemic aid.

III  African countries express their gratitude for China’s assistance

  • On March 26, materials donated by Chinese companies arrived in Madagascar. Madagascar’s president personally received the supplies at the airport, and thanked China’s for providing help in their hour of need. These materials will greatly improve the existing detection efficiency in Madagascar.
  • On March 26, Ugandan President Museveni posted a message on social media thanking China for establishing a remote exchange system. This system not only allows Ugandan health care workers to learn in a timely manner about the experience of Chinese experts in how to fight the outbreak, but also provides a system of rapid connectivity of the Ministry of Health in Uganda to local hospitals.
  • On April 4th, South Africa’s ruling ANC issued a statement welcoming and sincerely thanking the Chinese government and people for their assistance in the fight against the epidemic, which will help South Africa respond more forcefully to Covid-19 and save lives.
  • Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa stated “Thanks to China for its all-round support to Zimbabwe’s response to the outbreak, this is a truly friendly gesture.”
  • Kenya’s Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said supplies from China would not only improve Kenya’s new coronavirus detection capabilities, but would also greatly enhance the safety of health workers by serving as “a vivid demonstration of the friendly feelings of Chinese people towards the African people.”