With China’s help, Africa is expected to have a stronger public health agency to advance health initiatives and deal with disease threats in about two years.
Construction of the China-aided Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) Headquarters commenced on Monday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, in a landmark project that testifies to flourishing China-Africa cooperation.
Senior officials from the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Africa CDC, representatives of African countries, diplomats from the Chinese mission to the AU and high-level dignitaries witnessed the groundbreaking ceremony of the project on the southern outskirts of Addis Ababa.
The project, featuring modern offices, high-end laboratories and accessories, covers an area of 90,000-square-meter and is expected to be completed within 25 months.
The project’s groundbreaking is a concrete example of China’s support for Africa’s health sector and solidarity with Africa in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 held in June, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC Headquarters this year, work with Africa to fully deliver the health care initiative adopted at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit, and speed up the construction of China-Africa Friendship Hospitals and the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals.
Amira Elfadil, AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, hailed the project as the latest manifestation of the ever-growing and multifaceted China-Africa partnership. As the AU implements Africa’s development blueprint, the Agenda 2063, Africa has been looking for partnerships and friends to support the continent, she said.
“We are looking for those who are serious about the future of this continent; and when we say strategic partners and mention strategic partnerships, China comes first and we appreciate this partnership very much,” Elfadil added.
Echoing the sentiment, Liu Yuxi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the AU, stressed that China “gives greater priority” to bilateral cooperation on public health. The project will be a clear testimony of China-Africa solidarity against COVID-19, he added.
“Looking back this year, China and Africa supported each other and fight the COVID-19 pandemic shoulder to shoulder. China got valuable support from the African Union and African countries when it faced the hardest period,” the Chinese envoy said.
“When the outbreak reached Africa, China sent medical expert teams to 16 African countries, carried out paired-up hospital cooperation with 42 African countries, offered urgent medical supplies to African Union and almost all African countries, and is committed to implementing the G20 Debt Relief Initiative. All of these are the best interpretation of a friend in need is a friend indeed,” Liu said.
Africa, which has long been suffering from various infectious diseases, particularly the recurrent Ebola outbreaks and the raging COVID-19 pandemic, is in urgent need to improve its disease control system.
The total number of COVID-19 infections on the African continent exceeded 2.38 million as of Monday, while the death toll from the disease reached 56,360, according to the latest data from the Africa CDC.
The construction of the headquarters is expected to enable the Africa CDC to better play its role of coordination, mobilization and emergency management in public health across the continent.
Commending China’s assistance in building a dedicated Africa CDC Headquarters, Ethiopian Health Minister Lia Tadesse told Xinhua that the Chinese engagement serves as “another milestone to enhance China-Africa friendship while improving African people’s health and well-being.”
Cavince Adhere, an international relations expert in Kenya, told Xinhua that since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, China has “backed its words with tangible assistance to the continent.”
Once completed, the Africa CDC Headquarters will be another landmark venue in Addis Ababa, where the China-aided AU headquarters, the tallest structure in Ethiopia so far, is located.
The AU Headquarters has become a key landmark in Ethiopia and even in Africa as a whole, as well as an important symbol of China-Africa friendship, according to Liu.
“China is joining hands with Africa to build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future,” Liu said.
China will try to make its COVID-19 vaccines a global public good, and make them accessible and affordable for all African countries, he added.