Covid-19 brings lesson for China- Africa cooperation

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Covid-19 brings lesson for China- Africa cooperation
Covid-19 brings lesson for China- Africa cooperation

Africa-PressTanzania. THIS year is the last year in the implementation of 2019-2021 action plan of the Beijing summit for China-Africa Cooperation, and it is also the year of preparation for the next China-Africa Cooperation Council summit to be held in Senegal later this year.

As the preparations for the summit are underway, the impact of Covid-19 pandemic in the implementation of some of the items agreed upon in the action plan is now being reviewed.

Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Wang Yi’s visit in Africa is a good opportunity for looking into how to address the impact of Covid-19 pandemic to China-Africa, and use it as a platform to further cooperation and open up new opportunities for the development for both sides.

In preparation for the next summit of Forum for China-Africa Cooperation to be held in Senegal, challenges that have been seen in the investment area will have to be a priority.

Chinese investors have continued to show interest in investing in African countries that are making efforts to improve investment conditions, as outlined in action plans in sections 3.7 and 3.8 of action plan.

But some of them have failed to even make exploratory visits to Tanzania, unfortunately, the main excuse cited is anti-pandemic precautionary measures.

Foreign investment is an important economic interest for many African countries, Tanzania being one of them, there is need for having a mechanism that will eliminate unnecessary hindrances which impede the interest of Chinese investors. But there are also some areas where investment was ongoing.

Some Chinese companies have shown a willingness to cooperate well with African countries during the Covid- 19 period, and even some Tanzanian companies have continued to import heavy machinery from China for further production activities.

For example, an investor in a palm oil mill in Kigoma region has been forced to suspend his work due to Chinese engineers failing to come to Tanzania due to anti-Covid-19 measures in China, similar situation also found engineers who were planning to install machinery for the JKT shoes factory, have not been able to come to Tanzania.

There is need for special procedures that will ensure that such things do not happen, despite the presence of the Covid-19 epidemic. However, there have been creative elements in the business area.

The use of e-commerce has brought some significant changes in the way China and Africa do trade. For the first time ever, producers of agricultural products from East African countries have been able to market their products directly to Chinese customers via the internet. In November last year, the Tanzanian embassy in China oversaw an online business event which enabled Tanzanian producers to sell their products directly to Chinese customers without needing a broker.

This is an invention that should continue even after Covid-19, and if possible be put in a special order within the China-Africa Cooperation Council. Significant challenges have also been seen in the education sector.

This is the area mentioned in item 4.3 in the action plan. Many students have been forced to suspend their studies due to the pandemic.

There are those who were forced to return home and are now awaiting a decision by the Chinese authorities to returning to schools, and others continued to stay in China.

However, in order for these students to continue with their studies, many universities have adopted online tutoring.

While this has been applauded as a positive step, there have been some challenges which threaten the quality of education that African students receive from China.

There are courses that require a student to be in practical training, and there are courses for sensitive professions such as medicine that require the student to be in face to face contact with instructors.

Challenges like this also need to be addressed. People-to-people cooperation is part of China- Tanzania co-operation that has lagged behind compared to other areas such as trade and the economy.

Unfortunately, this is the area which has been mostly affected by the pandemic. Traders from both countries, or even married couples and their families from two countries, have found themselves forced to be separate for extended period of time due to anti- Covid-19 measures.

Some Tanzanians’ businesses continue to be taxed and pay rent in China, and even some Chinese businesses in Tanzania have been facing similar challenge as they are unable to come to Tanzania to continue their business.

The tourism industry is one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic. In the action plan, there is an item which features on the tourism industry. For almost a whole year now tourists from China did not have the opportunity to visit Tanzania and other African countries.

We know that the tourism industry is one of the major contributors to our economy, in terms of tax revenues and employment. For the sector to recover from the impact of the pandemic, this also needs to be addressed.

There has been a lot of optimism now that China has started vaccinating its population, with hopes that this will enable them to travel.

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