The Chinese government on Wednesday said it was prepared to give debt relief to Africa countries under the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework.
China’s President Xi Jinping, speaking at the Extraordinary China-African virtual Summit on solidarity against COVID-19, said “China will cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020”.
The Video Conference hosted by the Chinese President was monitored at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja, where President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria also participated
African countries’ indebtedness to China is estimated to be hovering around $80b to $100b, as China has major stakes in the economies of many African countries.
Angola , with a debt of $25 billion, leads the pack of African countries with huge indebtedness to China, while Ethiopia ($13.5 billion), Zambia ($7.4 billion), the Republic of Congo ($7.3 billion), and North Sudan ($6.4 billion), follow.
African economies are currently under threats with poor revenue occasioned by the destructive effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic, as the Chinese loans are used largely for infrastructure financing.
Jinping offered African countries that are hardest-hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress, China’s assistance to work with the global community to give them greater support, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tidy over the current difficulty.
“We encourage Chinese financial institutions to respond to the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and to hold friendly consultations with African countries according to market principles to work out arrangements for commercial loans with sovereign guarantees.
China, he said, would work with other members of the G20 to implement the DSSI and, on that basis, urged the G20 to extend debt service suspension still further for countries concerned, including those in Africa.
According to him, “China hopes that the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa. China will work with the UN, WHO and other partners to assist Africa’s response to COVID-19, and do it in a way that respects the will of Africa.
China also offered Africa achieve sustainable development in the long run, adding that “China supports Africa in its effort to develop the African Continental Free Trade Area and to enhance connectivity and strengthen industrial and supply chains.
“China will explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new business forms as digital economy, smart city, clean energy, and 5G to boost Africa’s development and revitalization.”
President Muhammadu Buhari in his contribution urged the international community to support collaborations and initiatives aimed at sharing knowledge from research and science to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
President Buhari told the summit that Nigeria would support and join any joint and collective action plan at regional and global levels to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout.
”As we face a common pervasive and invisible enemy, it is important that we all remain united to save our shared humanity, because this virus knows no borders.
”The fight against a global pandemic that continues to take so many lives, threaten livelihoods and challenging the very fabric of societies, requires enhanced cooperation and worldwide solidarity.
”I seize this opportunity to reiterate the need for this Summit to put humanity at the centre of our vision for common prosperity.
”We must learn lessons and share knowledge from research, as we develop more creative, responsive and humane health systems, improve crisis management protocols and support each other in the battle against COVID-19,’’ he said.
The Nigerian leader also used the occasion to commend the Chinese government, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, and the World Health Organization for their respective actions and measures to help developing and middle-income countries in Africa to tackle the pandemic.
On the UN, the President praised the Secretary-General, for launching COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund for low- and middle-income countries to tackle the health emergency, address social and economic consequences of the crisis and, strengthen the recovery efforts of most vulnerable countries.
The leadership of the global health body, WHO, was commended for its advice that enabled Nigeria take measures and enlighten its people on steps to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.
Similarly, President Buhari acknowledged that Chinese support had tremendously strengthened Nigeria’s effort in combating COVID-19, adding that President Xi’s strong support has further demonstrated the spirit of solidarity and enhanced the bond of partnership that already exists among FOCAC Member-States.
President Buhari also provided an update on what his administration has done since the tragedy of the global pandemic hit the country.
”From the outset of the pandemic, we in Nigeria instituted strong surveillance and infection prevention as well as control measures and made provisions to strengthen our testing capacities.
”Several well-equipped treatment and isolation centers were set up across the country to increase bed capacity.
”In the spirit of international collaboration, medical experts in Nigeria participated by video link in learning and experience-sharing exercises organized by experts from various countries, including China”.
Furthermore, the President said the Nigerian Government had trained several thousand healthcare workers, provided Personal Protective Equipment to ensure the safety of frontline workers, and offered incentives for their motivation.