Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to provide one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to African nations to help the continent immunize against the disease.
The president, who disclosed this during his speech made via videolink China-Africa summit in Senegal capital Dakar, said 600 million doses would be donated directly; while the remaining 400 million doses would come from other sources such as investments in production sites, which are sorely lacking across much of Africa.
Xi also said a cross-border Yuan centre would be set up to provide African financial institutions with a credit line of $10 billion.
He said that Beijing would undertake 10 poverty reduction and agricultural projects for Africa, and send 500 agricultural experts to the continent.
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.