The world is currently battling a prolonged economic disruption brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Many observers hold the view that the pandemic will rip through economies in a scale never seen before. Even though the full magnitude of its impact is unclear for now, the future for most countries especially in the developing world remains uncertain.
To survive the turbulent impact of this pandemic, nations must fight as one. In this war, I, just like many others have advocated, hold the opinion that no one should be left behind. This is not survival for the fittest. It is a journey where the strong must support the weak.
It is often said that real friendship is shown in times of trouble, yet it is also true that false friends leave in times of trouble. And this for sure is time to look out for friendly gestures.
China was the first nation to detect and report the first case of COVID-19. It’s handling of the disease has been commended particularly by the World Health Organization.
After numerous intervention measures, all indications are that China could be out of the woods as far as the pandemic is concerned. But amid the triumph, the government, through this year’s work report, acknowledges that it is dealing with the economic consequences of the contagion.
Yet with the darkest hour almost gone from within its boundaries, China began looking beyond. At a time the virus has been spreading fiercely in other parts of the world, China has channelled medical supplies to many countries, especially in Africa, while sharing its anti-COVID-19 experiences and providing great help to ongoing efforts in fighting against the virus. This gesture has shown that China is a responsible power.
Help To Africa
This is not the first time China has showed up to help Africa during a public health crisis. During the Ebola crisis, China provided material, financial, and technological support to boost response to the deadly disease.
The economic implications of this pandemic are already being felt in most African countries. Some of the key sectors affected include aviation, hospitality, and tourism. Workers in the informal sector, casual labourers, and daily-wage earners in the formal sector have been the hardest hit as industries partially or fully close operations.
In some countries, the agricultural sector was already in distress. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of the continent were being ravaged by locust invasion. Post COVID-19, the sector will require a major revival plan in order to get back on its feet.
It was, therefore, gratifying to listen to assurances from President Xi Jinping’s administration this week that it is not about to abandon its commitments to international partners. The fact that China had not officially communicated its plans for the years ahead, following the postponement of the annual parliament meeting for close to three months, was a worry.
Some had expressed concern that the Asian economic giant might gradually scale down its programs overseas in the wake of the pandemic that has slowed its economy.
But the meeting was finally convened and the jury is out. China will not turn its back on allies spread all over the world, especially in Africa, which is China’s largest trade partner at the moment.
Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the ongoing annual national legislative session, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi clearly underscored measures to be taken by his country to help Africa combat the virus.
His undertaking that China will continue to support African countries under the greatest strains through bilateral channels to get through a difficult period is welcome.
Secondly, the disclosure by the country’s top diplomat that China will work with G20 members to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to ease the debt burden of African countries couldn’t have come at a better time.
While responding to questions from journalists at the Great Hall of the People, Wang revealingly noted that China will also strive to maintain the “stability of the global industrial chains, promote trade liberalization and facilitation to counter the downward pressure on the world economy.”
Through such assistance, Wang was quick to point out that China will never seek any geopolitical economic interests, neither does it attach any political strings to the assistance.
Recently, China reduced restrictions to facilitate foreign investments and entry of goods into its market. Africa exports to China now include food and agricultural products. But the current production level is unimpressive. Compared to other developing economies, Africa’s agricultural productivity has been left behind. With the open doors, it’s time to take full advantage of this opportunity for the benefit of African people.
Furthermore, African countries must embrace platforms such as the China International Import Expo which provides new channels for countries to do business at a global level.
It will be remembered that through the Belt and Road Initiative, China has made significant infrastructural and technological investments in the continent. The projects initiated under this program have been greatly disrupted by the outbreak. For sustained development, it is imperative that these projects resume post-pandemic, given that a lot depends on them.
This is why Wang’s promise that China will continue consolidating partnerships with other nations as his country firmly supports an alliance of countries pursuing a common goal, is also good news to the continent.
Covid-19 has shown that no nation can stand on its own. China’s opposition to the isolation of any country must be supported by all. Going forward countries must work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
The Chinese government is sending the right signals both politically and economically by extending the much-needed support if nations must recover from this pandemic. This gesture is what Africa hopes other major economies will adopt or, even more, do better in its dealings with the continent.
Eric Biegon is a Multimedia Journalist with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, KBC.