China-Africa Summit in Dakar
The eighth conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) began on Sunday in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. For the first time, the two-day summit took place as a ministerial conference at the level of foreign, trade and economic ministers. Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the conference in a digital address and announced, among other things, that he would support Africa in the fight against Covid-19 with 1 billion vaccine doses, 600,000 of which would be provided free of charge. He also promised far-reaching economic support packages for member states, although the pledges made at the summit totalled US$40 billion, well below the US$60 billion pledged at the last FOCAC in 2018. According to observers, however, this does not indicate a reduction, but rather a restructuring of China’s commitment: Accordingly, less is to flow into expensive state-supported large-scale projects than before and the private sector is to be more involved. Direct investments by Chinese companies are also to be increased to more than US$10 billion in order to accelerate the industrialisation of the African continent. In addition, the Chinese president spoke of a planned exemption from customs duties for African products in China and debt relief for some of the so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Chinese-African relations have been strained recently. Besides high debts on the African side, unbalanced trade and poor compliance with labour and environmental rights in joint projects, the pandemic situation has also severely slowed down economic cooperation. However, Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao announced in Dakar that cooperation between the partners is recovering and that China has already invested US$2.5 billion in Africa in the first nine months of this year. FOCAC was founded in 2000 and is held every three years, alternating between China and the African continent. Since the beginning, 53 African countries have been part of the cooperation forum. Eswatini is the only country on the African continent that is not a member of this forum, as it does not yet have diplomatic relations with China due to its official relations with Taiwan. This year’s summit ended on Tuesday and produced three resolutions in addition to the official final document: the Dakar Action Plan 2022-2024, the 2035 Vision for China-Africa Cooperation and the Sino-African Declaration on Climate Change, the first declaration of its kind between China and its African partners on promoting green and sustainable development.
South Africa and the Omicron Dilemma
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly criticised the international community earlier this week for the travel restrictions imposed on his country and many other southern African states in reaction to the discovery of the new Covid 19 variant Omicron. According to Ramaphosa, South Africa is being punished for its transparent communication regarding the handling of the new virus variant. Ramaphosa received support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the African Union and the United Nations, whose representatives expressed similar sentiments and described the reactions of other countries as unjustified. Especially at the beginning of the peak travel season, the travel restrictions mean a great economic loss for South Africa, numerous livelihoods are at stake. Germany has also imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and seven other African countries. At the same time, recent reports suggest that the Omicron variant may have appeared in other countries around the world, such as the Netherlands and Brazil, even before the South African discovery. However, following the early notification of the virus variant in accordance with WHO regulations, South Africa now seems to have established itself in international public perception as the epicentre of Omicron. At the same time, this highlights a problem that still exists: the low vaccination rate on the African continent. Only 7% of the African population, estimated at 1.3 billion, has been vaccinated so far. One of the reasons for this is poor access to vaccines in most countries on the continent. The Covax initiative, through which many African countries are supposed to receive vaccine doses, has so far not achieved the desired success. Of the nearly 2 billion vaccine doses expected by the end of 2021, only 563 million have been delivered so far. In addition, according to the Global Vaccine Alliance, some vaccine donations arrive just before the expiry date, so that neither effective distribution nor sufficient and timely organisation of the vaccination campaigns has been possible. On Monday, meanwhile, a record number of vaccine donations – almost 11 million doses – were recorded, giving the Covax initiative a new boost. Meanwhile, in South Africa itself, the problem is not so much access to vaccines as the faltering vaccination campaign. President Ramaphosa therefore brought up the possibility of compulsory vaccination this week. Currently, 36% of the South African population is fully vaccinated.
In other news
In a solemn ceremony last Wednesday, gender and peace activist Marthe Wandou from Cameroon received the Alternative Nobel Prize. After the announcement at the end of September, she and the organisation she founded, ALDEPA, were now awarded the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm for their fight against gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region. Since the 1990s, Wandou, a lawyer, has been committed to combating sexualised violence in her home country. Her work is characterised by a participatory approach that actively involves community members, parents and children. In the Lake Chad region, girls in particular are threatened by attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram or may face domestic violence and child marriages. Thanks to Wandous work, 50,000 girls are said to have already been successfully protected from violence and exploitation.
Until 11 December 2021, the exhibition “Traces of Violence” will be held at Frobenstr. 1, 10783 Berlin. The exhibition focuses on the genocide perpetrated by the German Schutztruppen against the Hereo and Nama in what was then German Southwest Africa from 1904-1908 and questions the current historiography. Works by the Argentinean Marcelo Brodsky and the Namibian artist Hildegard Titus are on display. The exhibition is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 12:00 – 19:00.