China pledges another 1bn COVID-19 vaccine doses for Africa

President Xi Jinping on Monday said China would offer another 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to African countries and would encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10 billion in Africa over the next three years.

The pledge of additional vaccine doses – on top of the nearly 200 million that China has already supplied to the continent – comes as concerns intensify over the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19), known as Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa. 

In a speech given via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, President Jinping also said a China-Africa cross-border Yuan centre would be set up to provide African financial institutions with a credit line of $10 billion without giving further details.

China’s total imports from Africa, one of its key sources of crude oil and mineral supply, will reach $300 billion in the next three years, President Jinping said, adding that the two sides would cooperate in areas such as health, digital innovation, trade promotion, and green development.

The Omicron variant of coronavirus carries a very high global risk of surges, the WHO warned on Monday, as more countries reported cases, prompting border closures and reviving worries about the economic recovery from a two-year pandemic.

Scientists have said it could take weeks to understand the severity of Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa. Its emergence has caused a strong global reaction, with countries imposing travel curbs and other restrictions, worried that it could spread fast even in vaccinated populations.

Spooked investors wiped roughly $2 trillion off global stocks on Friday. Financial markets were calmer on Monday even after Japan, the world’s third-largest economy said it would close its borders to foreigners.

The World Health Organization advised its 194 member nations that any surge in infections could have “severe consequences” but said no deaths linked to the Omicron variant had been reported so far. 

The heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of infection surges that could have “severe consequences” in some places, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. -Reuters

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