Despite fierce opposition from the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday his country will “accelerate” the construction of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Ethiopia.
Xi Jinping’s announcement was part of a raft of measures issued in a major speech to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic globally.
Already, China had been taking center-stage in the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters. In July last year, Chinese envoy to the AU, Yuxi Liu together with AU officials toured the cite for the planned facility.
Located in the African Village, south of Addis Ababa, the new site covers an area of 90,000m2 with a total construction area of nearly 40,000m2. When completed the building will include an emergency operation centre, a data centre, laboratory, resource centre, briefing rooms, training centre, conference centre, offices, and expatriate apartments.
The entire facility was already planned to be constructed, furnished and equipped by the Government of China.
In February this year, the U.S. government upped its public opposition to China building the Africa CDC headquarters. The Financial Times reported at the time that the Trump administration was concerned over the so called Beijing’s scientific spying programme.
The U.S planned to do whatever it took to block the Chinese from building the $80m headquarters. “It’s a threat to Africa. Africa has vast amounts of genomic data and the Chinese want to build the CDC to eventually steal the data from all the other centres,” a US administration official is quoted in a Financial Times report as saying.
Now, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken it a farther step. The timeframe for the construction will be reduced, to have it up and running as soon as possible.
The Africa CDC will have five regional Africa CDC hubs, some of which were built by the U.S. based in Egypt, Nigeria, Gabon, Kenya and Zambia, which handle high-risk viruses, health crises, research and data collection.
The role of Africa CDC, launched in 2017 in the wake of the deadly 2014 west African Ebola crisis, is to respond to disease outbreaks including coronavirus.
Last month, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame pledged the $500,000 donation to AU efforts dealing with COVID-19, and another $500,000 to the Africa CDC.
Xi Jinping said today: “China will establish a cooperation mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals and accelerate the building of the Africa CDC headquarters to help the continent ramp up its disease preparedness and control capacity.”
China will also provide $2 billion over two years to the WHO to help with COVID-19 response and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries.
Xi made the remarks at the opening of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) via video link at the invitation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The $200m AU headquarters was fully funded and built by China and opened to great fanfare in 2012. It was seen as a symbol of Beijing’s thrust for influence in Africa, and access to the continent’s natural resources.
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