China waives some African loan payments due this year, says Xi
China will give up the debt of some African countries and is ready to provide additional support, including loan maturity extensions to free up the funds needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, President Xi Jinping said.
These measures build on an initiative by the Group of 20 Major Economies to suspend payments for low-income countries that have been pushed to the brink of insolvency by illness. Speaking in a video conference with African leaders on Wednesday, Xi urged creditors to do more, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
“China hopes that the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully for the relief and suspension of Africa’s debt,” he said.
Wednesday’s summit, also attended by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes as China attempts to deflect criticism of its initial handling of the pandemic of Covid-19 and to gain global support for its response to the virus. Confirmed cases in Africa have exceeded 260,000, with more than 7,000 deaths.
The Chinese government will ensure that countries on the mainland are “among the first to benefit” from any coronavirus vaccine it develops, Xi said, without providing further details.
Ties between China and Africa became strained in April after some African businessmen in Guangzhou said they had been mistreated and discriminated against as the city in the south of the continent adopted strict restrictions on managing the health for Africans.
African leaders have alleged discrimination against their citizens by authorities in Guangzhou as part of measures to stem the spread of imported cases, claiming Africans have been abused, kicked out of hotels and forcibly tested for Corvid-19. China rejected the claims and later promised to ease health measures for Africans in the city.
“We oppose racial discrimination and ideological prejudice,” Xi said Wednesday. “We are a strong advocate for fairness and justice in the world.”
– With the help of Sharon Chen, Jing Li and Linly Lin