Commentary by John Baimba Sesay
When I was in China as a junior diplomat, I know we used to have bulk of our students studying in China, residing in Wuhan and I am made to understand we still have a huge presence there. This is the heart of universities with thousands of foreign students – and Africans making more than half of the number (an estimated 4,600 of them).
China continues to expand her influence on the African continent; and one area it has concentrated is on the youthful population. Reports say, by 2018 alone, the country had more than 80,000 African students, making up the second-largest population of foreign students in China, according to the Associated Press.
China remains Africa’s major trading partner for 9 consecutive years as major cooperation programs further deepen bilateral, economic and trade ties.
In 2017, China-Africa trade volume reportedly reached $170 billion, up 14 percent from the previous year. In the first 6 months in 2018, China and Africa grew their trade by 16 percent year-on-year to $98.8 billion. The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has been a major conduit through which both continue to engage.
The corona-virus outbreak has presented China with a huge global challenge, given their unassuming might on world politics, economy and other geopolitical happenings. Whatever the case, China is bound to fight on and overcome, given how they stood firm and defeated the SARS outbreak between November 2002 and July 2003.
Indeed, this is a trying moment for not just our African brothers and sisters there but for our Chinese friends and government. There is no better time to stand with them than now.
I know the average Chinese is a resilient person. They can fight on and win. They stood by us when we were attacked by Ebola. There earlier response to our struggle precipitated the huge global response to the Ebola virus in the three affected West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They came in timely and handy.
For instance, by August of 2014, China’s Department of International Cooperation of the National Health and Family Planning Commission sent to Sierra Leone, eight personnel of the Chinese African Aid Expert Team to support Ebola Virus Disease control and laboratory investigation. During the same month, more support of various medical equipment valued at 10 Million Yuan arrived in Sierra Leone, all towards the fight against Ebola.
By way of further timely assistance, during the same August month, China again sent an Expert Team of three doctors to Sierra Leone to help contain the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease. At the request of the Government, China sent a Mobile Laboratory Testing Team to Sierra Leone on September 16, 2014, equipped with 59 Medical Experts specialized in laboratory testing, epidemiology, clinical medicine and nursing.
There was an announcement of a further 200 million Yuan ($32.54 million) package of humanitarian aid to the countries affected and International Organizations to help control Ebola.
Year in and out, we keep sending hundreds of students to that Asian tiger nation, to build their human resource capacity. In essence, the Chinese have always showed compassion when nations, especially developing ones, are faced with challenges.
As they are now in the middle of a health crisis, all we could do is to support them in whatever way whilst we also try to look after our ‘children’ in Wuhan and broadly across China.
We must also take note of the vital precautionary measures needed to prevent the same virus here.
Our thoughts and prayers are with them.