DAKAR/BEIJING (Reuters) – China will deliver another 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent over the next three years, President Xi Jinping said on Monday.
The country has already supplied nearly 200 million doses to Africa, where vaccination rates have fallen behind amid growing concern over the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in southern Africa.
Xi said 600 million doses would be donations and 400 million doses would be provided through other means such as joint production by Chinese companies and relevant African countries. China will also build 10 health projects in Africa and send 1,500 health experts, he said.
In a speech via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Xi said a China-Africa cross-border yuan centre would be set up to provide African financial institutions with a credit line of $10 billion, without giving further details.
China will provide $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports, create a zone for trade and economic cooperation and build a China-Africa industrial park, he said.
The announcement comes amid criticism of China’s infrastructure-for-commodities deals that some experts say saddle countries with unsustainable debt. Democratic Republic of Congo is currently reviewing a $6 billion deal with Chinese investors over concerns that it is not sufficiently beneficial to Congo.
The Belt and Road Initiative, in which Chinese institutions finance major infrastructure in mainly developing nations, has slowed: Chinese bank financing for infrastructure projects in Africa fell from $11 billion in 2017 to $3.3 billion in 2020, according to a report by international law firm Baker McKenzie.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a four-nation tour of the region last week that Washington was pushing for cleaner deals without unsustainable debts.
China’s imports from Africa, one of its key sources of crude oil and minerals, will reach $300 billion in the next three years, Xi said, adding that the two sides would cooperate in areas such as health, digital innovation, trade promotion and green development.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, also speaking via video link, thanked China for its support and said African economies should be able to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.
Discussions at the World Trade Organization on a temporary TRIPS waiver to make COVID-19 vaccines and treatments available to all needed to be finalised, he said, while criticising the travel curbs imposed on South Africa.
(This story corrects figure in second paragraph to 200 million not 200)
(Reporting by Beijing and Dakar Newsrooms, writing by Tom Daly and Bate Felix; Editing by Toby Chopra, Ed Osmond and Philippa Fletcher)