Creating a functioning health system for all: Lessons from China.

By Joseph Nyero

A heath system comprises all organisations, institutions and resources that produce actions whose purpose is to achieve good health. Its building blocks include; governance, human resource, health information, health finance, service delivery, medicines, vaccines and appropriate technology.

All these components work together interrelatedly with an intrinsic goal of providing good health. A breach in one of them make lead to the collapse of the whole system. Take for instance, if there is not health finance, the medicine will not be bought and the service delivery will be poor. It is therefore vital to develop the system as a whole and to do a full systems analysis if there is need to fix any problems in a health system.

Several studies have confirmed that having well-functioning health systems is a forward in eliminating unnecessary and controllable deaths.

While it is not like a picnic to build a strong and good health system, we can borrow a leaf from some of developing countries that have succeeded in this aspect.  China for example had its first health system reform in 1996. The effectiveness and efficiency of the reform was questioned after a couple of years because people still had the same problems, they had in the first place.

They still had high out of the pocket expenditure, most of them didn’t have health insurance. A large proportion of the people couldn’t afford the health that they needed. In a closer look, these are almost the same problems faced by the health system in developing countries like Uganda.

People at times have to sell off their assets just to afford medical care which pushes them right to poverty even if they had escaped the poverty line. It is important that we look not only at prescription drugs but also make sure that health care is a major focus.

Following a failure from a top research institute, the former reform of 1996 had failed. China then embarked on planning another reform in 2007 where they consulted and worked with very many of their ministries. In 2009, the central committee of the communist party of china issued a policy. Its major aim was universal health coverage by 2020 through strengthening health care delivery, health security and provision of essential medicines. This policy reform is a long-term endeavor but the returns are worth the investments. Even when it is quite challenging for the African setting, we ought to start on our own reforms. Like the Chinese say, a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step.

In order to get the job done, the state council set up a state council health systems reform office where the activities of the reform would be coordinated. The following were the policy reforms.

Under social health security, the social health insurance package was extended, medical aid was extended to the eligible poor and those with catastrophic medical expenditure.

The payment system was also reformed. Through this, 95% of the population has been covered by health insurance schemes by the end of 2017 and catastrophic health insurance introduced in all provinces.

Such a system in Uganda would reduce the burden of out of the pocket health expenditure. Often a times I have seen families who just take their patients back home because they can’t afford any more bills.

These people die from cases that could have been well managed if they had some form of insurance. Such a policy in Uganda would thus reduce mortality.

For the essential drugs, the new policy promoted rational use of antibiotics, removing price mark ups of drug and reforming the drug procurement system. This decreased the unnecessary use of anti-biotics and also made the drugs more accessible to the public. One of the issues in Uganda is over use of antibiotics which will eventually lead to resistance.

It bothers me a lot when I see how a wonder drug like ceftriaxone is used in cases where a milder antibiotic would work just fine. Antibiotic resistance is real and a day can come when a drug that did magic can no longer do a thing. A good example is penicillin. When it was discovered in 1928, it greatly improved mortality. Right now, bugs can have it for lunch! Such a policy in Uganda would not only reduce unnecessary bills on antibiotics but also delay the incidence of resistance.

As a doctor, sometimes I have had to walk through the pharmacies in Kampala to determine their prices. This is because I know that’s the first question patients ask upon presenting to them the treatment options. And from the search, the prices are shockingly different. I then send my patients to the cheapest pharmacy for the respective drugs. If we had a policy like the one China put up where the prices are controlled, medical care would be cheaper.

People even opt for traditional medicine that ends up messing their livers and kidneys the more. This is worse if the patient presented with a liver or kidney failure and they add on herbs to the problem. The people actually don’t want the herbs, they just can’t afford the modern medicine.

On the policy for primary health care, the Chinese government increased the capacity for training and created contracting systems for general practitioners. This was able to increase the number of doctors and improve health care. One of the major challenges in the developing countries like ours is few doctors and poor recruitment by governments. Having such a policy would increase the number of training institutes and ensure more doctors while also providing new jobs to the staff in the institutes. Another reason patients avoid government hospitals in Uganda is the long waiting time. This would provide a solution to this as there would be many doctors seeing the patients.

The other policy introduced by the Chinese to strengthen its health system was basic public health package. Here the government provided subsidies and promoted programs that control the main public health concerns. This made the bills cheaper and reduced the occurrence of non-communicable diseases. As indicated earlier, high bills are still a problem for Uganda. Non-communicable diseases are also on the rise in developing countries.

The last policy was about public hospitals. Through this, they encouraged the creation of consortium or alliances of healthcare providers. They also established a tiered health system where every healthcare provider knew exactly what its functions are. They also encouraged the use of clinical guidelines. This created an organized system with a standard of care that is uniform and a regulatory body. We have a clinical guideline in Uganda but it is not yet widely used and every doctor manages patients their way.

This makes some of the patients to get substandard care. In the Ugandan system, health center IVs are supposed to carryout surgeries but there are those which don’t. such a system would make every health center offer healthcare to the best of its abilities thereby helping reduce congestion at reginal and national health facilities where many tend to run even with cases that could be managed at health centers.

Upon emulation of such policies in to our setting, Uganda shall have tremendous health benefits. More people will visit and afford hospitals, poverty levels will drop, patient waiting time will decrease etc. the end result will be a good sustainable health system for all.

The writer is a research fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank, and a fourth-year medical student at Makerere University.

 

Now that CHINA is here!

By Terence Kalule

Albert O. Hirschman once challenged Professor Nurkse asserting that “underdeveloped economies are called underdeveloped because they face a lack of resources, maybe not natural resources, but resources such as skilled labor and technology.”

China’s history makes her the perfect candidate to win ownership of not only her national success today, but also her global impact in regard to her development. If we may compare the figures, we can see China’s GDP worth 59 billion US dollars in the 1960s, having America’s worth at 543 billion US dollars. Quite a gap!

By 2018, it might not come as a surprise that this gap gets even closer to surpassing, when China’s GDP is worth $13 trillion and that of U.S standing at $20 trillion. With such a fast-rising trend, China is anticipated to be the world’s number 1 economic superpower there’ll be by 2025. This development and more to come, is the result of a China whose growth has been through a furnace literally, melting and remodeling self into the image she is today.

Worth noting is that China’s history is not free from hardships. Like many other developing countries especially from the global south like African countries, China too suffered colonialism and brutal foreign invasion that cost the country tens of thousands of innocent lives as well as the country losing some of her territory to foreign aggressors.
Case in point is the result of foreign invasion that resulted into the so-called Opium War, which China lost to the United Kingdom (UK). Under coercion by UK’s warship, Qing Dynasty agreed to sign the treaty of Nanking thereby ceding her own Island of Hong Kong to the UK.

It is important to observe that the first opium war launched by British against Chinese people was completely uncalled for and is a textbook example of how dangerous imperialism can be! The British waged this war against Chinese people simply because the Chinese had resisted opium trade. The UK interpreted Chinese resistance to partake opium trade as disrespect and encroaching on tenets of free trade. Arguably, this points at capitalists’ voracity and sheer disregard of human dignity when their interests are threatened.

Like African countries that suffered humiliating foreign domination including slave trade, and brutal supersession of struggles for self-rule; China too for long suffered the wrath of foreign invaders. In 20th century, the country braved what some historians described as one of most wanton destruction of humanity in Asia as Japan fought China.

It can be argued that it is China’s history characterized by suffering at hands of foreign invasion that gave birth to the Chinese view that it is only through self-reliance that a country can realize dreams of its people. This idea of self-reliance is what China’s founding father Chairman Mao Zedong encouraged in China!

Mao closed off China from the rest of the world for close to 30 years. During his rule, stock exchanges were banned, diplomatic and economic relations with the capitalist west were put to an end! China was completely self-reliant in terms of finance, food and goods. Everyone shared wealth, and the collective community was represented by the state. China at the time had about 542 million people whose retreat had her rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

However, this did not stop China from supporting struggles against foreign domination especially in Africa. An instance is seen in the 1960s. China put aside more than $400M to support construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway line also known as TAZARA. At this time, the rest of the world saw the development as masochistic since at that time, China’s economy was weak that its total GDP was lower compared to that of Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, in proceeding years till late 1978, China’s per capita GPD was about $156M while that of Sub-Saharan Africa stood at $490M. With such facts at hand, one can conclude that despite challenges, China has always believed in standing shoulder to shoulder with African countries.

China’s economic game changer came with the country’s open-door policy. The establishment of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) played a key role and many experts describe it as the engine to China’s economic development. These zones had a special autonomy compared to elsewhere in China. From these zones, factories exported goods to the rest of the world. Importers were able to trade with other countries. One of these zones is famous for possessing the world’s largest toy production facility. China exports 41% of the world’s computers, 34% of all air conditioners & 70% of the world’s cell phones; her economy accounting for 18.6% of the global gross domestic product as of 2018.

The 2008 global financial crisis left no stone unturned. All nations got back to the drawing board to find means of revamping the economy. China’s economy collapsed too when there was a lack of market globally, resorting to targeting domestic consumers to boost production, as well as investing in developing nations in Africa and Asia.

Technologically, “the US has already lost the Artificial Intelligence race”. And this was reason good enough for Nicolas Chaillan, US Pentagon’s first Chief Software Officer, to be angry and later resign from his position recently on October 2; as he couldn’t stand the slow pace of technological transformation in the US military. “Whether it takes a war or not, is kind of anecdotal”. “We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal”, he said.

Through fore fronting certain sectors in her economy, and putting wellbeing of her citizens first, China has been able to make it this far. This growth, overtime, exhibits the bits in which China mastered the art of prioritization when she rooted her faith deep; in optimizing her natural and human resources, strategically tapping into what the technological milieu had to offer as well as an effective administration of a population so huge.

The Human Development Index (HDI) which emphasizes how people and their capabilities play a role in development assessment of a nation and not economic growth alone; Ranks China in the 85th position out of 189 countries, with 0.761 points as of 2019.
With the 5th industrial revolution so close, one whose partakers must be fluent in technology, after eradicating complete poverty; China is in a promising position to be valedictorian of this class. On February 25 this year, Chinese president Xi Jinping declared “Complete victory in eradicating poverty” in China, which the development UN secretary general described as a big success.

What lessons do Low Middle-Income Countries (LMIC) draw from China’s economic growth, and what opportunities are laid on table for citizens in countries running China-invested projects/partnerships? LMIC with low productivity and low capital accumulation barely stand a chance to escape Nurkse’s vicious cycle of poverty. Chinese investments in these countries therefore partly plays the role of a vent to the portal leading out of this poverty trap.
It’s the time for not only governments of LMIC but also citizens under democratic systems to make hay while the sun shines, taking advantage of and optimizing an overflow of opportunities from these Chinese partnerships, as a short cut to boosting internal development.

Terence Kalule is a research fellow with Development Watch Centre; a Foreign Policy Think Tank, and a health education enthusiast.

Can Stagnant African Liberation Movements Emulate China?

By Emmanuel Matambo.

On 22 June 2021, the Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS) at the University of Johannesburg and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) hosted a webinar to reflect on the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s 100th anniversary. Professor Ibbo Mandaza, a renowned Zimbabwean academic and politician was one of the presenters. In comparing the achievements of the CPC with those of Southern Africa’s liberation movements, Mandaza argued that the latter exhausted their usefulness the moment they succeeded to end settler colonial rule, and, thus, had no use after independence. I respectfully disagree with Mandaza’s categorical assertion for an obvious reason: according to that logic, the CPC, a liberation movement in its own right, would have had no usefulness beyond securing political independence for the Chinese people. This article submits that Southern African liberations movements need to adapt to their new circumstances if they wish to emulate the CCP’s longevity and successes.

The CPC’s impressive achievements, especially when told to a Southern African audience almost automatically brings into focus the quality of ruling parties in Southern Africa. However, the CPC itself has had a chequered history since its formation. I am of the view that the most important characteristic of the CPC is, by far, its ability to adapt. Arguably, others may allude to issues such as the forced political stability that does not brook political opposition, a merit-driven deployment of party cadres in strategic positions, and the work ethic of Chinese citizens. All these, however, could be traced to the willingness of CPC apparatchiks to timely respond to shifting domestic and international dynamics.

The CPC of the Mao era was doctrinaire, hell-bent on ideological purity, national sovereignty and pulling China out of the Soviet shadow. Thus, China under Mao played some part in sponsoring anti-colonial intrigue, it openly fought an ideological battle with the Soviet Union, purged those it considered apostates and embarked on costly disasters such as the Cultural Revolution. During the Cultural Revolution, middle-class Chinese intellectuals and artisans, accused of harbouring capitalist tendencies, were shunted to rural areas for socialist instruction. Thus, while China might have gained in ideological authenticity during the Mao era, the country remained desperately poor.

Mao Zedong died in 1976, opening China to possibilities of foreswearing the zealotry of the late Chairman. In 1978, under the auspices of Deng Xiaoping, a survivor of Mao’s purges, China started making breath-taking reforms and risks that are responsible for the greatest reduction of national poverty unmatched in the country, which remains unmatchced in human history. Even Barack Obama writes that due to China’s post-Mao policies, which entailed an “export-driven economy, a state-managed form of capitalism, no nation in history has developed faster or moved more people out of abject poverty.” Deng and his successors managed to achieve such stupendous feats because they adapted to a constantly changing international economic system. They well understood that insular politics and foreign policies deprived China of the benefits of integration with countries that could furnish China with technology, mineral and energy resources and markets for the country’s products. The country worked painstakingly to be included in the World Trade Organisation (which eventually happened in 2001), and for more than thirty years since 1978, China’s economy was growing at an unprecedented 9.5%. Today, from the $23 of 1949, China’s per capita GDP stands at $10,000, and its life expectancy is at 75 years. In addition to this, in November 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China had completely eradicated extreme poverty.

The presenters at the 22 June event referred to this inauspicious history in order to highlight the stupendous development that China has attained under the leadership of the CPC. Inevitably, this drew the discussion to where African liberation movements go wrong.  In this regard, the CPC’s example carries a few lessons for Southern Africa.

The need to adapt to changing circumstances

The problem with liberation movements in Africa is that they are not as adaptable as the CPC. A candid acknowledgement of mistakes committed led China to abandon Mao-era dogmatism. Southern African liberation movements would also have to forthrightly look at how policies such as affirmative action and land redistribution have not translated into upward mobility for the long suffering ordinary Southern Africans.

In a world that is increasingly globalised, Southern African leaderships could do well to encourage skills and student exchanges, a decision that served the CPC well at the time when it sought to implement what it called the Four Modernisations (agriculture, industry, defence, and science and technology). Considering that the biggest resource that Africa in general has is its people; with only 3% of Africans above the age of 65 years, and about 55% of the people between the age of 15 and 65, the continent is teeming with latent talent which could be put to use through aggressive investment in education; governing parties need to invest not only in traditional tertiary institutions, but in technical colleges that could provide the continent with hard skills.

All this does not require that liberation movements be removed from power. It requires that they become more responsive to their circumstances, that they nurture ideological clarity, and that they defer to talent and capability when appointing people in leadership positions rather than outdated references to one’s “struggle credentials.”

The imperative to advance national priorities

ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa are partly tethered to the witch-hunting mentality that made them successful liberation movements and exposers of enemy agents. However, there is a dearth of leaders within such movements with the foresight of leaders like Deng Xiaoping – the architect of China’s successful reforms. Consequently, lacking the necessary clarity of purpose, such liberation movements tend to perpetuate their bush-inherited stealth ways, with secret tussles for power that do not really have a national, people-oriented agenda as a priority.

Thus, the failure of entrenched political parties in Southern Africa is not because they have outlived their usefulness; it is rather because they have failed to adapt – to make the leap from anti-colonial agitation to effectively governing the countries they are in charge of, and, as a result, advance national priorities.

Clinging on to power cannot remain the main preoccupation

Multiparty political contestation is another preoccupation that usually taxes most of the energy of liberation movements. Desperate to maintain power, they tend to spend most of their energies and resources on discrediting and harassing their political rivals, as has been the case in Zimbabwe, to devastating effects. In South Africa, the ANC has clung on to power by a slew of stratagems that include the rolling out of the world’s biggest social welfare grant system, for which the poorest, comprising the biggest voting demographic are beneficiaries. In addition, the ANC plays up its central role in ending apartheid, thereby encouraging in prospective voters, the feeling that they owe post-apartheid South Africa to the governing party.

Like its Zimbabwean counterpart, the ANC also traffics in discrediting its rivals, such as accusing the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, of sectarian politics that cater only for white South Africans. This is an oblique allusion that the DA could take South Africa back to apartheid. Unfortunately, while such tactics (of slander, harassment and occasional violence) have kept some liberation movements in power, they have not improved Southern Africa’s circumstances. This calls for urgent action.

No more excuses

It is time for southern African liberation movements to adapt, act with the needed sense of urgency, and respond to changing circumstances in the way that the CPC did. According to Statistics South Africa, the country’s general unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2021 was 32,6%, while among the youth (aged between 15 and 34), it was 46,3% “implying that almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2021.” These cheerless statistics could tempt one to argue in tandem with Professor Mandaza. Yes, some of South Africa’s woes could be blamed on longstanding injustices wrought by colonialism and apartheid. The ANC, as well other southern African liberation movements, inherited a country where the majority of citizens were on the fringes of economic progress. But the CPC did not find a thriving China, either.

 

CPC’s Centenary of progress: a journey that mutually benefited African Countries.

By Allawi Ssemanda.

Today marks exactly 100 years since the formation of China’s ruling party – the Communist Party of China (CPC). From a humble beginning which characterised its very first national congress in the city of Shanghai, today CPC stands tall. After their 72 years at the helm, CPC has transformed the once poor and under developed country to become the world’s second economy and technology power house with a staggering GDP estimated at about $14.7 trillion as of 2020 just behind United States of America’s (U.S.A) $20.9 trillion.

With able party leadership, CPC has driven China on a steady and consistent economic growth which has seen the country carrying on the most successful poverty alleviation projects in the world’s history. For example, from 1990 to 2018, China was able to reduce extreme poverty from 66.3% to 0.3% and early February this year, Xi Jinping, the secretary general of CPC’s Central Committee announced the good news that China had completely eliminated abject poverty. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres hailed the achievement as a huge contribution to UN’s 2030 sustainable development agenda stressing that “It also brings hope and inspiration to the international society, and shows that a campaign promise and consistent policy can make a difference in improving livelihood of the most deprived and vulnerable.”

Whereas China’s success story has been viewed by some western world with scepticism, some criticising China’s good relations with developing countries especially in the global north, one can firmly say such criticism is a result of lack of information and malice and arguably, some Western country’s libido dominandi, a latin concept meaning the argue to dominate everything.

From historical perspective, China has never been a selfish country and has always been on the side of developing countries. For example, during colonial bondage when many African countries were under colonial rule, despite her challenges at home as a developing country, China played a key role in helping African countries to snap the ugly shackles of colonial rule. In late 1960s, China set up a soft loan of about $400 million to assist in construction of the famous TAZARA railway line linking Tanzania and Zambia which helped in easing transport in East African region and beyond. China set up this fund at a time when its total per capita GDP was still low compared to Sub-Saharan Africa. For record, until 1978, Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP was about $490 while China’s averaged was about $156. Therefore, it is not new China to consider helping other developing countries at a time when Beijing seems to be in need.

Therefore, the continued good relations and development assistance from China to several African countries and the rest of global south should not be interpret as Beijing’s hidden agenda but rather, Chinese belief in promoting sprit of a shared prosperity for mankind.

Today, as CPC and People’s Republic of China in general mark 100 years of success, there are many lessons countries world over can draw from China’s governance and leadership model. Arguably, CPC is one of largest and vibrant old political parties in the world and tops the list of political parties enjoying citizen’s support. Indeed, a May 2021 study by Washington Post revealed that 98% of Chinese had trust in the national government. This was a great score compared with 2018’s Values survey which put the percentage at 95!

Perhaps the puzzle other governments should ponder at should be; how does CPC function to enjoy such huge support from not just party members but all citizens?

Looking at CPC right from the revolution time to date, it is evident that party leadership has always firmly put interest of people first whenever the government is developing policies. It is this magic that has seen the country able to provide better and functioning systems that support the country in all important sectors like health, transport, education, energy, creating employment opportunities for citizens, and ensuring security among others.

The other magic bullet CPC and Chinese government employed that can’t be under looked is creating a knowledge-based governance system. This has been achieved through party leadership’s commitment of ensuring right people with right knowledge are put in right place to ensure government policies and plans work and results are seen in given timelines. Coupled with the party’s leadership stance against corruption, when government makes a promise to people, results are delivered.  It is model that embraces merit over mediocracy that has seen the country achieve set goals year after year, thereby leaving citizens contended and trusting their government.

Beijing’s decision to maintain her non- interference policy in affairs of sovereign states has left Beijing a friend to many. If looked critically, this has saved the country unnecessary expenses and costs that come with meddling in internal affairs of other countries. This means the country has enough time to plan, put to good use resources and work for her people and where necessary offer a helping hand to other countries instead of imposing their beliefs and influence in quest for global hegemony.

As we look forward to another century – a journey CPC has started today, China is proving to the world that communism with Chinese characters work best, not because Beijing forces it on other nations, but people of the world can see success in China which resonates well with their aspirations.  To CPC and People’s Republic of China, congratulations for reaching this far.  What China has just celebrated is by all definitions a century of success and provides countless lessons to other developing countries on how to dream big and realise such dreams.

Allawi Ssemanda is a senior research fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank.

CPC’s success story has fruits for Uganda and entire Global South.

CPC’s success story has fruits for Uganda and entire Global South.

By Alan Collins Mpewo

Tomorrow, China’s Communist Party (CPS) will be celebrating 100 years of service and success. When it comes to diplomacy, under the leadership of CPC, China has become a global power and genuinely shared her success with other countries especially in the developing world or the global south. The country championed a path of diplomacy which has seen it enjoy good diplomatic relations with almost all countries of the world. These diplomatic ties have left several countries world over gain economically, and all other forms that describe development.

For example, since establishing diplomatic relations between Uganda and China in early 1960s, the Government of China has continued to provide economic assistance to Uganda in form of interest-free loans and grants to a cumulative value of approximately US$80 million by 2003. The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries diversified considerably, resulting in a trade volume of close to $100 million in 2005. China’s economic role in Uganda has been increasing over the years that in many ways, there is no way one can ignore the role played by China when it comes to Uganda’s economic development.

In energy sector, Chinese construction of Uganda’s Karuma Hydro Power Plant by Sinohydro Corporation Limited entered the finishing stage despite what seemed to be insurmountable challenges complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When completed, the power plant will be the largest power-generating installation in Uganda. It’s one of Uganda’s flagship projects financed by the Export Import Bank (EXIM) of China. Inadequate power supply is one of the key bottlenecks to fast tracking Uganda’s economic development. Therefore, it’s critical in addressing the country’s increasing electricity demand in efforts to fast track industrialization.

Additionally, in March 2019, the Chinese-built 183-megawatt Isimba Hydropower Plant was inaugurated. At the time, the Plant had increased the country’s total installed capacity to 1,202 MW. According to China International Water and Electric Corporation, the construction contractor of Isimba, at the peak of the construction of the Plant, there were over 3,000 workers, of whom 85% were Ugandans; several Ugandan engineers sent to China to receive further training, while those who remained behind were also able to have hands-on experience. Once there is adequate and cheap electricity coupled with the government’s enabling policies, Uganda’s massive industrialization will kick off.

China is also helping Uganda achieve its Oil exploration through China National Offshore Oil Corporation International, one of the largest oil and gas companies in Uganda’s energy sector. In 2016, development and production licenses for eight oil fields in the Exploration Areas 1 and 2 blocks were issued by the government. In 2017, the front-end engineering design (FEED) of the blocks was initiated and the intergovernmental agreement for an oil pipeline was signed and the FEED was completed. CNOOC International also completed the FEED for ground construction and drilling on block EA 3A in 2017. With this, many Ugandans have attained jobs and Oil production will be a blessing to Uganda’s economy

In Agriculture, China has been contributive to agriculture which remains Uganda’s major economic activity with the vast majority of the population deriving its livelihood from the sector. In November 2019, Uganda became the first African country to sign an agriculture project worth 2.4 million U.S. dollar worth of under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-China South-South cooperation framework. The funds would be used in efforts to boost agriculture production and productivity over the next 3 years. The agriculture project was designed to upscale and commercialize agricultural production with a target of increasing exports to Chinese markets.  China’s major agricultural imports from Uganda have been in tea, coffee, and spices. China also supplies machinery and equipment and after sales servicing for various farming and industrial products. Through companies such as China North Machine Co. Ltd, large stock of quality machines used in sectors like Agriculture and Irrigation have been supplied in Uganda.

Zhong’s Industries Ltd through the Chinese paddy rice initiative has also helped boost food security and employment in central Uganda.

In areas like Aid and Grants, China has substantially increased its aid commitments to Uganda over the years, which it has provided in the form of technical assistance, with an emphasis on training in Chinese institutions. Grants, interest-free loans, preferential loans that have an interest subsidy and debt relief. 2020 was a fruitful year for China-Uganda ties as the two countries agreed to lift their relations to a comprehensive cooperative partnership and inked a series of cooperation documents in June. The elevation of the relationship was a milestone, and those agreements injected fresh momentum into bilateral economic cooperation. According to figures from the Chinese embassy, about 4,500 Ugandans attended training courses backed by China, covering various subjects including public management, social organization, education, economy and trade, mineral resources, agriculture and health.

In industrial sector, China has created industrial parks in different parts of Uganda like Liaoshen Industrial Park in Nakaseke. Commissioned in 2019, this one-stop-center, accommodated 13 factories and employed about 2,500 Ugandans at the time. It is expected to have 80 industries employing up to 16,000 people by 2025.  Other Chinese industrial parks include Mukono Industrial Park, Shandong Industrial Park, Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park in central region, and Sino-Uganda Industrial Park in Mbale district, eastern region. By this, China has shared expertise in production and management as Uganda keeps fast-tracking industrialization.

In the field of human capital development, the Chinese Government provides scholarships for Ugandan students to study in Chinese higher education institutions since 1980s. This has been done within Uganda and China. For example, within Uganda, The People’s Republic of China in 2019, awarded 30 scholarships worth UGX85million to students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to pursue their studies at Makerere University for academic year 2018/2019 and second cohort of 30 scholarships awarded for Academic Year 2020/2021. Internationally, the Ministry of Education of China formulates Chinese Government Scholarship, and entrusts the China Scholarship Council to handle the enrollment of international students to wit, the Scholarship provides full Scholarships for Ugandan students who wish to study in China for bachelor, master or doctoral degrees and scholar programs to candidates who major in the fields of science, engineering, agriculture, and pedagogy.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation also set up scholarship programs for students in elementary and high school. Since the establishment of the scholarships in 2012, 330 Ugandan students have benefited from the program. The CNOOC programs have enhanced academic performance in Bunyoro. The number of Hoima students who achieved first-class standing in the Uganda Certificate of Education increased from 13 in 2012 to 387 in 2017. The attainment of education skills and knowledge has consequently translated into economic development of Uganda.

Infrastructure which is key for any country’s development, China is supporting Uganda’s ongoing upgrading and expansion of Entebbe International Airport, Uganda’s main gateway to the rest of the world, as well as the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which links the capital Kampala to Entebbe International Airport. Chinese road construction contractors have also been involved in building several roads in the country. All in all, as Chinese gather to celebrate CPC’s 100 years of existence, as a African, I feel I have all reasons to join them in jubilations considering the big impact their success has contributed not just towards my country’s development but entire Global south and the world at large.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a Law student at Islamic University in Uganda and Fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank.

Sino-Africa Skepticism and “Debt Trap” Talk Lack Facts: Critics Are Wrong.

By Allawi Ssemanda

China’s funded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a project that will bring easy connections to countries of East-Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East, China and the America’s has been viewed by critics of Sino-Africa relations with geopolitical lenses with frames insinuating that China imitated the project with hidden agenda. However, analysis and figures from credible international organizations such as World Bank and African Development bank underscores that BRI project – the first of it’s in the world’s history will provide African countries with greater opportunities which will enable these countries develop industrial capacity and infrastructure which are all key in the continent’s body (African Union) 2063 Vision.

Currently, about 29 international organizations and over 65 countries which represents 62% of the global population have either signed to join BRI or have shown interest in the project. This means that upon completion, the project will make the world’s largest market easy to access and traverse on road which is key in transportation and mobility of goods and services. Indeed, World Bank forecast suggest that as a result of BRI project, infrastructure, trade and investments links with China and several countries in BRI project will see improvement in trade and investments.

In Africa, over 20 countries including the continent’s largest and growing economies such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya have all joined the project. In East African Region, locals are already enjoying fruits of BRI project. For example, Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railway line which is part of silk road reduced the 759 kilometres journey from three days on road to just 12 hours a great breakthrough in mobility of goods and services.

Current figures indicate that Chinese investments in countries are estimated at over $200 billion, while China’s trade with countries that fall in the corridors of BRI have registered growth figures at $6 trillion for years 2014-2019 while the trade between China and BRI countries was worth $6,975 billion.

China’s declaration during 2018 Beijing Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) where China announced that African countries are key partners in the project proves BRI’s Strategic Rationale which emphasizes that Belt and Road Initiative is meant to build a “community of Common Destiney for Mankind” and easy mobility as well as connectivity of the world.

China’s commitment to invest and support African countries investments in industrial capacity which resonates well with AU’s 2063 vision makes the project an opportunity for the continent to realise her vision. Indeed, 2019-2021 FACOC Beijing Action Plan aims at using industrial capacity cooperation mechanism to ensure both China and African countries realise their objectives. Consequently, BRI project will in the long run undoubtedly result into aiding African countries to develop in in aspects of technological advancements.

Though critics of Sino-Africa Relations claim that China’s development assistance is a debt trap and unfounded claims that China is is hiding ambitions of neo-colonialism Africa, or to seize the African Countries’ properties in instances African countries fail to pay back, these claims seem far-fetched and African countries should really deny ‘Sino-Africa Skepticism’ listening ears for this will slow down the much-needed development cooperation between China and African countries. There are more opportunities BRI project is bringing and African countries should focus more on seizing these opportunities.

According to African Development Bank (ADB), African countries are faced with shortfalls in infrastructural funding budgets. ADB adds that to meet their infrastructure needs that will allow African Countries sustain their growing population and replace their ageing infrastructure, African countries need between $130-170 billion annually. Therefore, African countries need allies who can help them raise such funding and Chinese efforts should be supported rather than attaching it with all negativities.

  Aerial-photo-shows-the-Mazeras-Bridge-of-the-Mombasa-Nairobi-standard-gauge-railway-in-Kenya-May-12-2017.-Xinhua

It is worth noting that talks of “debt trap” are unfounded and based on speculations rather than facts. A recent study by Rhodium Group; BRI project has the best agreements with all those assessed having provisions that China can renegotiate, forgive or write off debts on countries under BRI project opposed to ‘Sino-Africa Skepticism’ who claim China will seize such projects.

Indeed, there are facts centrally to claims of the so-called debt trap. In 2015, China wrote off $40 million loans to Zimbabwe, in 2018, China announced it hard forgiven Botswana a loan totalling to $7 million in 2019, Addis Ababa announced China had written their debt which was incurred in BRI project.

Allawi Ssemanda is a senior Research Fellow at DWC. The views expressed in the this article are his own and not necessarily those of DWC.

RUSSIA’S GROWING INFLUENCE IN AFRICA & ITS IMPLICATIONS.

By Rugaba John Paul and Allawi Ssemanda.

During Vladimir Putin’s state of nation address in April, he warned the west that there would be severe consequences if the west had crossed Russia’s red line. This statement not only proved the narrative of a new 21st century cold war, but also showed the confidence of the Kremlin as a potential and confident new global power.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s global power dwindled especially in the first decade since soviet collapse (1991-2001). The move from a Communist Style Economy to a somewhat Capitalist economy coupled with a weak drunk leader in Boris Yeltsin, the Russian bear at the dawn of the 21st century was a shadow of its past. Then came Vladimir Putin, who transformed Russia and wanted the fatherland to regain its lost global influence.

In 2007, Times Magazine voted Putin person of the year, crediting him for returning his country from chaos to “the table of world power.” He was also voted World’s Most Powerful person four times between 2013 and 2016 for leading his country into global affairs. He is further credited for revolutionizing Russia’s economy and bringing stability in the country after defeating Chechnya rebels. Arguably, Moscow’s push in World’s affairs portraying Russia as a new Global player has had some positives such as enabling Russia host the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics and 2018 FIFA world cup but also rekindled some old cold war wounds with the western powers.

Russia and Africa: A new frontier?

Unlike Britain, France and Germany and other European powers, imperial Russia didn’t take part in the scramble for Africa nor had any colonial possessions. Fast forward to the cold war, Soviet Russia was a main supporter of revolutionary conflicts on the continent and played a big role in some of the major events on the continent during that period.

But in Putin’s Russia, Moscow is increasingly having a major role on the continent as it tries to compete with other Global Powers such as; China, United Kingdom, France and U.S.A. for the African slice of the cake.

In October 2019, Russia hosted its first ever Russia Africa summit which was attended by 43 African heads of states, and more than 3000 delegates from across Russia and Africa. During the summit, president Putin pledged Russian support to the continent in terms of aid, arms and political support without strings attached. This summit was seen as a statement by the Kremlin to try to restore the old influence the Soviet Union had on the continent. Some analysts argue that Russia is still lagging behind on the continent in terms of influence. Despite this, Moscow’s influence is on rise.  For example, Russia has sent mercenaries to Central African Republic to support the U.N backed government and has also backed the Haftar’s faction against UN backed Libyan government in the now slowing Libyan conflict. Also, Russia is playing a key role in the implementation of nuclear energy on the continent having signed deals with about 12 countries to operate their nuclear facilities whilst Russian state owned and private companies are cutting mining deals in countries such as Angola, Ghana, Cameroon etc. this is a clear indication, that with time, Russia aims at having a foothold on the continent.

Russia has also been in talks with a number of African Countries including among others Sudan and Djibouti to establish their military bases. In Djibouti’s case, analyst attribute Russia’s interest in the country to its strategic location which has made it an area of interest for greater powers with many opening their military bases there. Russia’s interests in Djibouti started way back in 2012, and held talks between 2012 and 2013 on same matter. However, after Russian-Ukrainian crisis over Crimea in 2014, the U.S pressured Djibouti to pause Russia’s advancement which many saw as rivalry against Washington’s interests in the region. Though Russia’s military installation base project seem to have lost momentum, the two countries are still working together in containing piracy.

Though Moscow missed out on Djibouti deal, it has found other potential candidates in Africa to host its military base(s) along the Red Sea, with the most receptive being Sudan. Indeed, in 2017, the then Sudan’s dictator and strongman Omar Al-Bashir, travelled to Sochi where he met his Russian counterpart and the two leaders discussed among others growing the two countries’ cooperation in areas like defence and security. Though signed documents did not include establishing a military base, the Putin – Al-Bashir meeting discussed the subject. In 2020, Russian government published information on its website confirming Moscow was in final stages of building a naval base along Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Moscow explained that a “logistical Support Centre” would be set up in Sudan stressing details of an agreement signed between Sudan’s Prime minister Mikhail Mishutin and Russian side.

However, one can argue that the prospect of establishing a permanent Russian military base in Sudan is now uncertain. The collapse of Sudan’s strongman, Al-Bashir regime in April 2019 and now improved diplomatic relations between Khartoum and Washington in October 2020 arguably makes Russian “protection” to Khartoum less important. In this case therefore, though the need for defence cooperation between Sudan and Russia may still be key, one can argue that the plans for a military base in Sudan are now in limbo since Khartoum is steady courting the Western for a more friendly diplomatic relationships – a journey that started with Washington removing Khartoum from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism and consequently removed the country from sanctions.

Russia’s Eritrean card and game.

Analysts and International Affairs strategists have in recent argued that changes taking place in Eritrea point at possibility of long-term Russian military presence in that country. After the country gained independence in 1991, Eritrea became one of the world’s most closed countries  and one of worst dictatorship on the continent. Important to note is that since the signing of a peace treaty with Ethiopia in and the lifting of UN sanctions late 2018, the once closed country has been on a somewhat diplomatic charm looking for opportunities to break out of its isolation and attract foreign investors.

Consequently, Asmara approached Russia and has been more actively since 2018. In August of that year, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia and Eritrea were negotiating the opening of a “logistics” base on the Eritrean coast.

Other evolutions followed. In preparation for the lifting of UN sanctions, Russian and Eritrean delegates met in October 2016 to discuss their future bilateral relations. Besides which, July 2019, Moscow announced it was lifting its own sanctions against Eritrea which set a stage for the two countries to relate after nearly a decade of sanctions.

However, as things now stand, there is no proof that the plans for a Russian logistics base on Eritrean territory are still pending. Indeed, the closed nature of Eritrean politics and the strategic nature of this type of negotiation make any interpretation hazardous. But in any case, the exchanges between the two countries on matters military continue as before. Indeed, early 2020 Russian defence officials revealed that Kremlin and Asmara had signed the first defence cooperation for Russia to deliver two Russian Ansat helicopters purchased as part of the development of military cooperation with Russia.  “This country is no longer under sanctions. In 2019, a contract was signed with Eritrea on the delivery of two Ansat helicopters in a military modification to transport personnel. The deal is to be fulfilled 2020,” noted Russian defence official.

Russia-Somaliland Option.

Somaliland which belongs dejure to Somalia but is de facto independent since 1991, has been referred to on several occasions as a possible Red Sea host for Russian armed forces. For decades now, Somaliland has been seeking recognition as a full-fledged member of the international community. And it is therefore on the lookout for foreign partners, especially among the great powers who could settle the issue of its status.

In 2017, the possibility of a Russian military base in Somaliland resurfaced. In the same year, while at the Russian embassy in Djibouti, an emissary from the Somaliland government offered to grant Moscow the right to build base at Berbera and if Moscow agreed to reorganize Somaliland as an independent country.  Then, in January 2020, there were reports of the imminent opening of a Russian military base in Somaliland.

However, a month after these reports, Russia’s ambassador to Djibouti described these reports and false denying Russia had plans of recognizing Somaliland as an independent country. If analysed critically, one can conclude that despite having interest in red sea, Russia which has always shown stance against great powers openly intervening in internal affairs of other countries may not be ready to make a U-turn on this by reorganizing Somaliland which Somalia would consider as Moscow interfering in her internal affairs. With that in mind, a conclusion can be made that the future of a Russian military base at Berbera is uncertain and it remains unknown fact.

Broadly, an argument can be made that Russia’s intervention in Middle East particularly in Syria has opened up other possible opportunities for Moscow to enter the Middle East and East Africa. Indeed, since 2015, Russia has been trying to gain more influence in the region and contacts between Russia and those two regions have grown considerably. However, it is important to observe that the limits of Moscow’s diplomatic influence become fairly evident whenever Russia’s ambitions to establish military base on the Red Sea are on the table. In many ways, Moscow’s diplomacy finds its initiatives somewhat baulked by what they see as region’s instability and by the fierce competition offered by the other major powers such as U.S and China.

Therefore, one can conclude that despite Kremlin’s undying interest to have more military bases in strategic areas like the red sea, the chances of a Russian military base seems to be slim and indeed are arguably the object of what should be termed as unreliable reports. However, important to note is that Russian ambitions in Africa and in the Middle East continue unabated. Even with challenges such as the slowdown of diplomatic exchanges forced by the Covid-19 pandemic and its far-reaching economic consequences, Kremlin hopes for a base near the Straits of Bab El-Manded and the Red Sea will remain a priority on Moscow’s regional agenda over the next few years and as night follows the day, one can safely say president Putin will try to achieve this today or “tomorrow”.

Conclusion.

It’s clear that since the rise of Putin in Russia, the country’s global presence has risen to somewhat resemble the global influence of its soviet past. Her rise has risen eyebrows among western powers such as the united states, NATO and even Great Britain. The actions of the Kremlin over the past 20 years such as the annexation of Crimea, alleged poisonings of dissidents in the U.K, alleged cybercrime and election meddling in the U.S have given left rise of the Russia bear a negative outlook in the western world.

Needless to say, Russia has played a major role in global affairs. Through its diplomatic role in major international organizations, it has managed to push through agendas or reject agendas that seem to be pro-western. Russia, being founding member of the BRICS, has used its position to foster development in the developing world. During the ongoing covid 19 pandemic, Russia was the first country to manufacture and distribute its vaccine, Sputnik V Vaccine, which it has shared with other countries and helped in the global fight of the pandemic.  Presently, tens of African countries are expected to receive over 300 million doses of Russians Covid-19 vaccine – Sputnik V Vaccine.

As of now, from security to economic and diplomatic perspective, Russia’s match to Africa seems unstoppable – matching towards achieving Moscow’s ideal world Putin dreams of. A world where Russia is seen as a major player in Global affairs.  However, what is not clear is whether Moscow can achieve her ambitious goals in a short or long run especially with economic challenges occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic and slow economic growth in Russia.  However, no matter the challenges such as mistrust especially from the West and other challenges Moscow may meet along the way, Putin’s Russia has proved to be resilient to emerge victorious in dealing with challenges and criticism from the West.

 

 

 

A Century of Progress: CPC’s Success Story and the Rise of China Have Positively Impacted Africa.

As China’s ruling party – the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates her 100th birthday, from its very humble background, in almost all fronts, CPC now stands firm and taller after seeing China through a remarkable Century of unquestionable progress.

After 72 years of steady leadership, CPC guided China to move from a poor, and developing country to become the world’s second largest Economy. As of 2020, China’s total GDP was estimated to total $14.7 trillion, sightly bellow U.S’ $20.9 trillion. Arguably, China’s CPC leadership continue to guide the country to the right direction in terms of economic and social development. According to last week’s data released by China’s Statistics department, despite world’s economic growth slow down due to Covid-19 pandemic, China’s economy grew a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021, one of the best so far globally and the biggest jump in the last three decades.

Steady economic growth seen in China has enabled the country to carry out what is now the world’s most successful poverty-alleviation program. Indeed, China’s extreme poverty numbers declined in a short time from 66.3% in 1990 to just 0.3 percent in 2018. In February 2021, CPC’s Central Committee Secretary General, Xi Jinping, broke the good news that China had completely eliminated extreme poverty, a development that was lauded by several world leaders as a great achievement.

Another intriguing achievement is how CPC has managed to build a State capable of protecting and governing her huge population of 1.4 billion people peacefully for 72 years. CPC has presided over possibly the longest period of general peace and stability in China’s modern history. Today, China boasts of a empowered huge population with a huge economy and political stability which has enabled Beijing to have a greater say in global affairs – oftentimes standing by almost all developing countries. It is now an open secret that Beijing is playing an increasingly visible role in the international arena; in key areas like promoting Public Health, Peacekeeping efforts, promotion of trade and technology among others. Under the leadership of CPC, China has also come up with projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Forum on China-Africa Cooperation all which symbolizes China’s readiness and desire to play a bigger role in global affairs for good of mankind.

In many ways, CPC’s achievements and consequently China’s rise have greatly and positively contributed to African countries and the continent at large. It can be recalled that since its inception, CPC stood shoulder to shoulder with African countries especially while fighting colonial bondage. Indeed, since the famous 1955 Bandug conference, the party provided ideological, material and moral support to different African liberation movements. African Countries returned the favour in kind by supporting China to gain a seat in United Nations in 1971 and many of African countries to date are committed to China’s One-China policy.

Due to continued good relations between China and African countries, the two sides agreed to start Forum for China-Africa Cooperation which has provided an official and effective platform for cooperation between China and African countries on bases of Mutual respect and benefits. Consequently, China is Africa’s biggest trading partner with trade between the two reaching over $208 billion as of 2019. Beijing is also Africa’s biggest bilateral creditor which has helped several African countries to finance their much-needed infrastructure projects which analysts view as catalysts for social and economic development.

Indeed, China invested $25 billion in Africa’s infrastructure; helping almost all African countries’ communication, energy, transport, water and sanitation sectors in the year 2018. Both International Monitory Fund and World Bank’s 2019 reports credited the continent’s rapid economic growth since early 1990’s to China’s infrastructure assistance.

Arguably, China is not just a diplomatic ally to African countries, neither should the relations between the two sides be viewed only from the angle of China providing economic and development assistance alone. In many ways, China is a role model and many African countries have a lot to learn from the country’s ruling party CPC and the country in general. Firstly, the party – CPC has presided over and maintained economic growth levels for the country at the same time building strong state institutions and hence, effective governance and stability of the country. The two points; effective governance and stability have largely been elusive in most African countries. It can be recalled that three decades ago, the level of development in China was equal to that in Africa. For example, in 1978, Sub-Saharan African countries GDP averaged at $490 while that of China was about $156. However, China has now transformed itself and emerged as a global economic powerhouse while Africa remains the least developed continent in the world.

The other important lesson African countries can borrow or learn from China and its ruling party is the centrality of historical contingency which is glaring especially success of economic and social policies in the country. When we critically analyse its development process, despite the fact that China borrowed some foreign models and experiences, Beijing did not just transplant these ideas but rather, its economic policies are in many ways tailored to meet the country’s cultural, geographical, historical, and political conditions.

Another key lesson African Countries can learn is that China has demonstrated how pragmatism not dogmatism should govern the choice of policies any country that aspires to develop should embrace. While many of African countries are still struggling to fight and eradicate poverty, China’s poverty eradication polices have helped Beijing to eliminate extreme poverty. Therefore, China’s political model is something Africa as a continent we can learn from. While CPS ensures democracy at the grassroot level in China to ensure people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and how they are governed locally; meritocracy is always key at the top level which helps in ensuring that China is governed by not just competent individuals with a firm grasp of economics, international relations and science and technology, which helps them to make not just correct but nation saving decisions for the country. This system also ensures continuity in politics which is good for policy consistency.

It can be argued that it is a result of meritocratic recruitment that China has been able to deal with the problem of corruption, a vice analysts attribute to African country’s stagnation. Also, emphasis of discipline among party leadership and membership cannot be ignored while analysing reasons behind China’s rise.

In conclusion, aware that it is not always easy to predict the future, one can argue that as CPC prepares to celebrate its 1st century, it remains to be seen what the next century will look like for this mighty party and the world at large. Whereas CPC started its first century as an obscure and arguably a loosely coordinated Communist Movement, it is starting its second century at a time when the country it presides over, Peoples Republic of China, is a global trailblazer and a potential superpower-in-waiting.

As of now, from security social and economic perspective, China’s future is fully secured-matching towards achieving Beijing’s dreams. No matter the challenges such as mistrust from some Western countries and a few of their allies and conflicting regional interests among her neighbours, China under CPC leadership has proved resilience to emerge victorious in dealing with sensitive issues.

Criticising China over “Vaccine Diplomacy” is Trivial and Inhuman.

Workers at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport in Harare coordinate the transfer of Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government to Zimbabwe. PHOTO: CGTN Africa/Farai Mwakutuya
Workers at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport in Harare coordinate the transfer of Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government to Zimbabwe. PHOTO: CGTN Africa/Farai Mwakutuya

By Allawi Ssemanda.

Over the past months, some international media and political pundits in different capitals have been very active framing and creating negative narrative targeting China’s Covid-19 vaccine donations to poor and developing countries. Many branded this humanitarian gesture as China’s “Vaccine Diplomacy” while other critics see it as “vaccine favouritism” simply because China, a Sovereign Country independently decides who to donate its vaccines.

When you critically look at insinuations raised by Beijing’s critics questioning this life much needed assistance of donating life-saving vaccines to poor and developing countries, the two arguments often advanced are trivial and, in all ways, are naïve.

Firstly, some of critics wonder why before vaccinating its entire population, China is donating covid-19 vaccines to other countries. Drivers of such arguments forgets one key fact: Since November 2020, China has recorded only 0.01 per cent of World’s Covid-19 new cases, and many of these are imported cases. Therefore, whether overtly or covertly, one criticising China for donating vaccines to developing countries before her own population is akin to “Small talk.”  As the saying goes; ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’; China is aware that Covid-19 cases in a number of developing countries is on rise, so criticising Beijing for doing offering a helping hand to countries in need is unacceptable and inhuman.

Secondly, it is now an open secret that with “vaccine nationalism” the world has witnessed especially amongst developed western countries where rich(er) countries booked and bought almost all first production of vaccines and reserved extra for themselves, and many of developed countries dragging heels in supporting COVAX program which is meant to help developing and poor countries secure enough vaccines. Also, COVAX initiative experts say may cover just 20% of those in need, making other sources of Covid-19 vaccine much needed since it saves life.

An argument can also be made that had China not taken this humanitarian step to donate Covid-19 vaccines to poor and developing countries, arguably, to date many of them would still be waiting without a single dose. The consequence of this is severe including continued deaths. Therefore, from humanity perspective, anyone putting Beijing under critical lenses with a view of finding ulterior motives for their humanitarian assistance should be treated with contempt.

Other than the claim that China is donating Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries before vaccinating enough of her citizens and also invested more funds in Belt and Road project, promoters of the so-called “China’s Vaccine Diplomacy” argue that Beijing is doing so because the two meets China’s diplomatic and strategic goals. The argument above doesn’t really hold for it simply promotes selfishness. Even if it was true that China will strategically gain from her humanitarian gesture in aspect of good relations with other countries especially those Beijing has donated or promised to donate vaccines, still this is a very simplistic argument if compared with the outcome of China’s primary intention of donating these vaccines which is saving lives.

Also, from historical perspective, those against China helping others when the country seems to be in need lack historical facts. It is on record China has never been a selfish country and has always been on the side of developing countries. For example, during colonial bondage, despite her challenges at home as a developing country, China played a key role in helping African countries to snap the ugly shackles of colonial rule. In late 1960s, China set up a soft loan of about $400 million to assist in construction of the famous TAZARA railway line linking Tanzania and Zambia which helped in easing transport in East African region and beyond. China set up this fund at a time when its total per capita GDP was still low compared to Sub-Saharan Africa. For record, until 1978, Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP was about $490 while China’s averaged was about $156. Therefore, it is not new China to consider helping other developing countries at a time when Beijing seems to be in need.

It is important to recall that even before Covid-19 pandemic, China has always helped poor and developing countries when it comes to medical assistance. In Uganda for example, Beijing has been helping the country in medical field through different programs including assisting in establishing one of Uganda’s National Hospital, China-Uganda friendship Hospital Naguru which has helped tens of thousands of people in getting specialised medical services. The hospital has Chinese medical experts and, on many occasions, Beijing supplies it with necessary medical supplies. Such assistance is wide spread in different parts of Africa. During Ebola outbreak, Chinese medical experts played a pivotal role in containing the outbreak in a number of developing countries including among others Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo among others.

It is also important to note that China has not only donated vaccines to developing countries but has also extended the same assistance to international organisations. On March 15th, China’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Zhang Jun announced that Beijing will donate 300,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to UN Peace keepers, the first of its kind to the organisation.

If you critically examine arguments raised by critics of China’s vaccines donation, you will see that all reasons advanced are nothing but a cobweb of politics. arguably, it also fits in Beijing’s critics held view that it is always alright for the so-called “traditional doners” not Beijing to offer assistance to developing world. Put differently, this is textbook of libido dominandi – a Latin concept loosely translated as the urge or lust to lead and dominate in everything that gives credit. This way, Beijing’s “Vaccine Diplomacy” critics think it should be the West leading in this good cause which China is presently doing perfectly!

It is upon this background that considering the many benefits of China’s medical assistance to poor and developing countries, instead of putting China’s donation of covid-19 vaccines under microscope hopping to find ulterior motives as some claim, the world should hail China’s humanitarian assistance for offering to assist needy countries by donating the much-needed Covid-19 vaccines specially to developing countries.

By Allawi Ssemanda, Senior Research Fellow at Development Watch Centre. allawissemanda@dwcug.org

 

Vaccine nationalism poses a major threat to Africa as the West gobbles up supplies – we need to up our game

By David Monyae and Sizo Nkala counsel

The race to inoculate world populations against Covid-19 has begun in earnest and Africa is losing it. According to The New York Times, as of 4 February 2021 a total of 107.3 million vaccine doses had been administered to individuals across the world. North America leads with 6% of its population having been vaccinated, Europe is on 3.6%, Asia is on 0.9%, South America is on 0.7% and Africa lags far behind with fewer than 0.1% while Oceania has none.

In Africa, only four countries have begun administering vaccines to their populations. Morocco is ahead of the pack having administered 200,081 doses, Seychelles is a distant second on 30,861, Egypt has managed 1,315 while Algeria is fourth with a measly 30 vaccinations. South Africa will soon roll out its vaccination campaigns after receiving one million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines (ED: Doubt has now been cast on the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to protect against what is commonly called the South Africa strain).

The latest numbers paint a gloomy picture for the continent, which has recorded just under 3.6 million cumulative cases, more than 407,000 active cases and 92,391 deaths. South Africa has been the hardest hit on the continent with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases to date and 44,946 deaths making up 48% of the continental total. Even more worrying is that the Covid-19 death rate has spiked from 2.1% in July 2020 to 2.5% at the moment, and in 21 African countries the rate is above the global average of 2.2%.

This is compounded by the emergence of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa known as 501.V2 which reportedly spreads faster than the original virus and may undermine the efficacy of the current vaccines. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has said that the continent needs to inoculate at least 60% of its population to achieve herd immunity. As such, Africa needs access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible.

However, vaccine nationalism presents a formidable challenge as developed countries rush to hoard the available vaccines, leaving nothing for developing countries.

According to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, rich countries have ordered vaccines from manufacturers multiple times their own population. Canada has ordered 123.8 million doses, which is more than 330% of its population. The United Kingdom ordered more than 201 million doses, which is about 302% of its population, and the United States has placed orders for 555 million, which is 169% of its population.

More than 4.5 billion vaccine doses have been reserved under bilateral pre-purchase contracts with various manufacturers – 46 African countries account for only just over 189 million (4%) of the doses under the pre-purchase contracts of which more than 128 million (67%) are due to Morocco and Egypt.

With vaccine prices ranging from $10 (R148) to $60 (R890.50) per dose, most African countries have been effectively priced out of the market. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine costs $19 per dose, Moderna and the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines cost $25-$37, Johnson & Johnson is priced at $10, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine also costs $10 and China’s Sinovac is the most expensive at $60.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the African Union chairperson, decried the hoarding of the vaccines which is “being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world”. The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team set up by Ramaphosa in August 2020 has reportedly secured an additional 270 million doses from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to be supplied later in 2021.

African countries are also relying on the 600 million doses to be distributed through the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative, which will cover about 20% of the population.

The shameless and irrational hoarding of vaccines by Western nations has shown that when it comes to survival, the ever-busy Western supply chains will suddenly grow cold. Africa’s long-standing relationship with the West has historically necessitated a Western-inclined approach to African problems. This historical bias needs to be scrutinised. Over-dependence on the West can undermine the continent and its people’s survival when supplies of essential medical products like the vaccines become nationalised as they have been.

Just recently the European Union announced that it will institute export controls on vaccines made in European factories, further constricting already fragile supply chains. Even the notion of multilateralism, so fervently proselytised by the West, seems to be only viable in good times. In the rush to survive the pandemic, it is quickly cast out of the window.

The Covax initiative, which promises fair and equitable access to vaccines and which presents many poorer nations’ best chance to get the vaccines, has also been beaten to the market by the developed countries, some of which are even part of the initiative. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, only three countries in Africa (Gabon, Libya and South Africa) have made financial contributions to the Covax facility. The rest of the countries joined the initiative under the Advance Market Commitment (Covax AMC) which relies wholly on donations through official development assistance. This reinforces Africa’s dubious distinction as an aid-dependent continent.

The emergence of China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will diversify the supply chains to the advantage of Africa and other poor regions. Indeed Egypt, Morocco and Seychelles are inoculating their populations with China’s Sinopharm vaccine while Algeria is using Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The vaccines are less of a logistical nightmare as they can be stored in standard refrigerators whereas Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna need to be stored at between -70°C and -20°C.

In a diplomatic offensive, China has already offered $2-billion to Africa and pledged to make the vaccine available to the continent. While this is a welcome offer, it is not sustainable as it makes Africa dependent on the goodwill of others for lifesaving medicine.

The continent should harness and develop manufacturing and research and development capacities of its own so as to cut the dependency on foreign-controlled supply chains, especially for pharmaceutical products. Although there are fairly vibrant pharmaceutical industries in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa, the continent depends on foreign suppliers for 80% of its pharmaceutical and medical supplies. Chronic shortage of human resources, lack of capital and modern technology, and the Balkanisation of African markets are some of the factors that have to be addressed urgently to stimulate the growth of the all-important pharmaceutical industry in Africa.

The implementation of the new African Continental and Free Trade Area – especially the elimination of tariffs and non-tariff and technical barriers to trade and the application of the rules of origin – may give a new lease of life for the pharmaceutical industry. The establishment of the Africa CDC in 2016 to boost the continent’s public health policies is also a step in the right direction.

While Africa welcomes the assistance in the construction of its CDC by its strategic partner, China, it nonetheless raises questions about the ability of its leaders to invest in health infrastructure. It certainly does not inspire confidence that the AU will be able to independently source the funds to support the activities and the work of the CDC.

Moreover, there is a need for a paradigm shift in the understanding of national security among African leaders. African countries spend between $8 and $129 on health per capita per annum, far below the $4,000 average spent in high-income countries.

While Africa carries 23% of the disease burden, it accounted for only 1% of global health spending in 2015. Major countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana spent 0.5%, 2.1% and 1.1% of their budgets on healthcare respectively in 2017, which is way below the 15% threshold recommended at the 2001 Abuja Declaration.

Yet military spending has gone up 20% in the past 10 years. As such, there is a need to move away from a traditional understanding of national security as military spending, to embracing a holistic view of security as inclusive of poverty reduction and, much more importantly, public health preparedness. With a shift in budget priorities, Africa can build a robust public health system and wean itself off foreign supply chains whose sudden nationalisation has crippled the continent’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, putting the very survival of its people in jeopardy.

Dr David Monyae is the Director for the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg and Dr Sizo Nkala is a postdoctoral fellow at the same centre.

Source: This article was first published in Daily Maverick

 

 

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