Africa has a big population but relatively scarce medical resources, which poses extra difficulties in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Africa has learned from China’s experience battling COVID-19 and has also received large sums of medical aid from the Chinese government.
But Western media are using the spread of COVID-19 in Africa as a chance to instigate a rupture China-Africa ties with claims of “Africans being discriminated in China,” or “China’s diplomatic crisis,” in an attempt to stir up negative attitudes toward China among Africans.
However, based on Global Times reporters’ interviews in several African countries, many people in Africa believe that China’s measures in preventing virus are to contain the virus, and not to discriminate. “The virus is the common enemy of China and Africa. Only by being rational and tolerant and overcoming difficulties together can we overcome the epidemic,” said a professor in Liberia.
The death toll from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent reached 1,080 as the number of confirmed cases hit 21,317 as of Sunday, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
The Africa CDC, a specialized agency of the 55-member African Union (AU) Commission, in its latest situation update issued on Sunday, April 19, revealed that the number of confirmed positive cases across the continent rose from 20,270 on Saturday to 21,317 as of Sunday afternoon. The virus has so far spread into 52 African countries, it noted.
African countries are taking stringent measures to curtail the pandemic. According to the AU, 43 countries out of its 55 members have locked their borders, and seven suspended international flights. The rest of the AU members adopted preventive measures.
With the outbreak continuing to spread across the African continent, the Chinese government, as well as Chinese communities and companies in Africa, have not hesitated to offer supplies and share experience, to return the favor of the support African countries gave China.
Safety and solidarity
Since Nigeria announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case, almost every Chinese community and organization in the country has made local donations.
On March 27, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria handed over medical supplies including face masks, thermometers, gloves, liquid soap and sterilized water. The Association of Chinese Women in Nigeria also sent supplies to an orphanage in Lagos.
The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation sent a chartered plane to Nigeria with medical supplies worth over $1 million and helped build two makeshift hospitals.
A 15-member medical team of experts from the China Railway Construction Corporation bringing medical supplies arrived in Abuja, Nigeria on April 8.
Nigerian Minister of Health Dr Osagie Ehanire said the mission will strengthen the response in Nigeria based on lessons learned in China, Nigerian independent newspaper the Guardian reported.
Ehanire said the Chinese medical team will “provide first-hand experience and insights on how they were able to bring the spread of the disease under control.”
Drawing on experience from China in epidemic control, Nigeria locked down its cities and expanded the scope of testing. Although the confirmed number is increasing, the country is seeing positive results.
Meanwhile, recent videos surfacing on social media alleging discrimination of Africans in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province are considered as misunderstandings by many Nigerians.
A Nigerian lawyer who graduated from the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai in 2017 said that he knows Chinese people call Nigerians “brothers.”
“We should not be instigated by Western propaganda. As a lawyer, I totally understand the reason of China’s measures. In many years I never saw China discriminate any country,” he said. “What China is doing is to find patients and save them. Chinese people have to obey, so do the foreigners.”
Medical officials and experts in African countries have been connecting with China through the internet, acquiring knowledge in preventing COVID-19.
Ethiopia has adopted strict orders to control the pandemic as more than 80 infected cases have been reported in the country. The Ethiopian Council of Ministers approved a regulation to prohibit handshaking and mandated citizens wear face masks in public venues. Those who violate the order could be punished with three-year imprisonment or a maximum fine of 200,000 birrs ($6,000).
Lia Tadesse, Ethiopia’s health minister, and doctors from local hospitals had a video conference with some Chinese medical experts to discuss their experience in fighting the pandemic.
Tadesse admired and spoke highly of China’s efforts in fighting the pandemic, saying that even with a large population China soon controlled the epidemic, adding that Ethiopia looks forward to benefitting from China’s experience in controlling the pandemic.
The Guardian, a mainstream media outlet in Tanzania, published Emmanuel Sumari’s statement on China’s fight against the pandemic on its front page. Sumari is a Tanzanian student studying at Xiangya School of Medicine, Central South University in Central China’s Hunan Province.
As a medical student, Sumari expressed admiration for China’s medical staff in particular as they devoted themselves to treating patients and saving lives in highly risky conditions. The school also cares for and helps foreign students a lot, Sumari said.
Algeria is fighting one of the worst COVID-19 epidemics in Africa as more than 300 people have been killed by the virus.
The country is in great need of medical supplies and the Chinese government, Chinese people and companies in Algeria have responded. Apart from donating materials, the China State Construction Engineering Cooperation is set to build a small hospital to serve its 4,000 Chinese and 5,000 Algerian employees.
On March 27, China sent a team of medical experts to help Algeria fight the COVID-19 epidemic.
China has sent 40 tons of medical supplies, including face masks and protective suits to Africa via a chartered flight. The supplies were distributed to 18 countries in Central and West Africa.
The tradition of friendship
Among African people, those friendly to China are still in the majority.
South Sudan’s Juba Monitor newspaper published a full-page joint statement by the envoys of 13 East African countries, including South Sudan. The statement supported China and its prevention and control measures, holding that China’s resolute measures to safeguard the well-being of the Chinese people and the people of the world have won the admiration of the rest of the world.
Professor Nuetah at the University of Liberia published an article on April 13 saying he believes that reports of China conducting compulsory and discriminatory prevention measures on Africans in South China’s Guangdong Province are not true.
He said that as Guangzhou is an important trading city and one of China’s major manufacturing hubs, any responsible government would take strong measures to control the outbreak that has killed nearly 100,000 people worldwide. Therefore, the preventive actions taken by the Guangdong government cannot be classified as discriminatory.
Tens of thousands of African students are living and studying in China on scholarships from the Chinese government. Under the strict control and careful care of China, all the foreign students have been safe except one African student in Wuhan who was infected with COVID-19, he said. And that student was quickly cured, said Nuetah.
China has made every effort to meet the living and medical needs of foreigners, including African students, and to provide them with timely treatment.
China opposes all forms of discrimination, but requires all personnel in China, including Africans, to strictly abide by relevant Chinese laws and regulations. Africans in Guangdong should fully understand this and actively cooperate with it so as to protect the health and safety of themselves and others, he noted.
Hussein from Egypt has studied China for many years and has visited China many times. He learned that in cities where more foreigners live, such as Beijing and Shanghai, there have been many cases in which Chinese people have been forced to take action because some foreigners from many different countries, including the UK and other Asian countries, did not obey the epidemic prevention regulations.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been no confirmed cases or disputes among thousands of Chinese citizens in Egypt and thousands of Egyptians in China.
That’s because the two governments shared information in time and reminded citizens to cooperate and understand the need for epidemic prevention measures taken by the local government in accordance with the law, Hussein said.
On April 15th, Bank of China Johannesburg Branch donated medical protective materials to the city of Johannesburg, South Africa