China – Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered one billion COVID-19 vaccines to African countries.
According to Chinese media reports, nearly 200 million vaccines have already been supplied by China to the continent.
Xi’s announcement comes amid concerns about the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first identified in southern Africa.
Xi said he would encourage Chinese companies to invest around $10bn in Africa in the next three years.
The Chinese leader announced to donate 600 million doses directly. Moreover, the remaining 400 million doses would be donated from other sources, such as numerous investments in production sites.
Chinese observers said Xi’s pledge could significantly strengthen Africa’s immunological barrier against the pandemic and tackle global vaccine inequality. Once again, the new strain highlights the grave consequences of global vaccine inequality, specifically in Africa, where only 6 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.
On Monday, more countries banned the entry of foreigners as the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the Omicron is likely to spread internationally, warning of “severe consequences” in some areas. On Monday, Japan announced the closure of its borders. Two days ago, Israel banned the entry of all foreigners, making it the first nation to shut its borders.
“We must keep ourselves unified in our fight against COVID,” Xi said at the summit on Monday. “We must ensure the protection of our people and narrow the vaccination gap”.
Beijing has donated millions of doses of its Sinopharm vaccine to poor African countries since the pandemic began.
Critics, however, say that China’s largesse forms part of its vaccine diplomacy.
Beijing invests heavily in Africa and is one of the continent’s largest trading partners, with trade worth more than $200bn in 2019.
Beijing has often been accused of “debt-trap diplomacy” because of the scale of its lending to developing countries.