Joseph Kenga (right), a nurse at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a health officer in Mombasa County, Kenya, March 9, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]
The high-level meeting of the United Nations Security Council in mid-May at the urging of China to address Africa’s dual challenge of conflict and post-COVID-19 economic recovery was a step in the right direction.
Africa is still the region that has been hardest hit by the global health crisis. The pandemic has destroyed millions of jobs, created social vulnerabilities and pushed an estimated 114 million people back into absolute poverty. Africa’s economic growth prospects have also deteriorated with projected GDP growth of 3.4 percent for 2021, compared to 6 percent globally.
According to the British nonprofit Our World in Data, only 1.5 percent of the African population have been vaccinated with a first dose, compared with 35 percent in Europe and 52 percent in North America. With a death rate of 2.7 percent in Africa compared to 2.2 percent worldwide, John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the pandemic situation on the continent could worsen.
The pandemic also unfolded against the backdrop of numerous domestic and cross-border conflicts that were already threatening peace, stability and development across Africa. With the debilitating effects of the pandemic affecting resource-poor regions of the continent, the world could see even further erosion of peace and stability.
China’s comprehensive approach to peace and security is of great importance to Africa.
In the continent’s situation, internal volatility and instability, which often require a government response from the police or the military, could be fueled by desperation from unemployment, poverty and corruption, and such challenges cannot be sustained with hard power. Carefully designed economic empowerment could be key to resolving such a conflict.
Beyond the traditional conceptualization of national security, new threats such as cybercrime, climate change, pandemics and violent extremism require new approaches based on progressive and inclusive forms of international relations such as multilateralism. States cannot act in compartments. You need to be ready to reach out to each other to find solutions to the cross-border challenges the world is currently facing.
It is for this reason that the new partnership for Africa’s development recently launched by China and Africa is important. The initiative aims to go beyond the traditional conceptualization of peace and security and move towards a holistic approach that aims to resolve the root causes of conflict while promoting development on the continent.
External actors must be ready to listen to African voices and contribute to the search for intrinsic and endogenous solutions to the continent’s governance, economic and political challenges.
In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, China has provided significant assistance to the continent. Beijing has taken a society-wide approach to deliver not only epidemic control experiences, but massive donations and direct purchases of the essential medical supplies needed to fight the disease in Africa. China has also honored its pledge to help African countries cope with economic difficulties through credit restructuring and debt relief and to provide the continent with its vaccines.
Only inclusive development can cement the foundation for post-pandemic economic recovery and lasting peace and stability in Africa. Chinese companies on the continent have continued to work even in the face of the pandemic. Not only has this enabled the completion of projects vital to Africa’s manufacturing sectors; Many young Africans who are hired by companies also enjoy continued employment at a time when millions of jobs have been destroyed by the global health crisis.
China is setting a good precedent that other development partners can emulate to help the continent tackle the difficult terrain the pandemic has brought and embark on a new path for socio-economic progress.
In addition to access to vaccines, targeted investments are needed that can boost job creation and wealth creation across Africa. Africa has proven to be a rational business case for partners who have successfully unlocked the continent’s potential.
The author is an international relations scholar with a focus on Africa-China relations. Views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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