China's President Xi promises Africa a billion Covid vaccine doses

Leader says 400 million will be provided from other sources

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China has promised one billion coronavirus vaccine doses to African countries.

Africa is the least vaccinated continent, with most of its 54 countries having a vaccination rate of less than 10 per cent.

In a speech made by video link to a China-Africa summit being held near Senegal's capital Dakar on Monday, President Xi Jinping said his country would donate 600 million doses directly to help boost vaccination across the continent.

Mr Xi said a further 400 million doses would be provided from other sources, such as investments and production sites, Reuters reported.

India is ready to “expeditiously” send more vaccines to Africa, New Delhi said late on Monday after China's pledge.

China is the African continent's largest trading partner, with direct trade worth more than $200 billion in 2019, according to the Chinese embassy in Dakar.

Beijing has also donated millions of doses of its home-produced Sinopharm vaccine to poor African countries since the start of the pandemic.

"We must continue to fight together against Covid," Mr Xi told the summit. He added that China would send about 1,500 medical workers to Africa.

"We must prioritise the protection of our people and close the vaccination gap."

Vaccination rates in Africa are low compared to the rest of the world, with many states at the mercy of foreign donations owing to the lack of local production facilities and the prohibitive costs of mass purchases.

The summit in Senegal follows a visit this month by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, against a backdrop of a growing rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

Mr Blinken discussed boosting local vaccine-production sites with leaders during the visit, and alluded to the sometimes fraught nature of the continent's deep relationship with China.

Last month, US President Joe Biden also announced vaccine donations to Africa, pledging 17 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union.

Updated: November 30th 2021, 8:06 AM