China has announced its plan to exempt some African countries from repaying the zero-interest-rate loans that are due at the end of this year. It is also willing to provide further support, including loan maturing extensions, to free up funds needed to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This was disclosed by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, during a video conference with African leaders. This initiative adds to an earlier one by the Group of 20 leading economies to suspend payments for low-income countries that are in deep economic crises due to the coronavirus disease.

According to the Chinese President, “China hopes that the international community, especially developed countries and multilateral financial institutions, will act more forcefully on debt relief and suspension for Africa.” Other leaders that took part in this summit include the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Adhanom Ghebreyesus. This comes as China tries to deflect criticisms over the initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and get global support for its response to the virus.

The Chinese President added that China is also willing to give priority to African countries once the COVID-19 vaccines are ready for use. It will ensure that countries in the continent are among the first to benefit from any coronavirus vaccine it develops, although no further details were provided.

This is seen as a way for China to get back to the good books of African countries after allegations of indecent treatment and discrimination against Africans in Guangzhou by the authorities. The ties between China and African countries, including Nigeria, were strained over stringent health restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Nigerian authorities on their part had to summon the Chinese envoy to Nigeria to express their displeasure over such treatments of Nigerians living in China. China, however, rejected such claims and vowed to ease health measures on Africans in the city.

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