Last Tuesday, Chinese and African leaders came together at the 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation to explore new partnerships to address some of the most pressing health challenges facing Africa and strengthen an innovative health partnership based on south-south cooperation. This year’s roundtable is the first to take place on the African continent. It will focus on promoting sustainable health solutions that meet the needs and priorities of African countries and draw on China’s unique expertise.
Officials will engage in two days of sessions aimed at determining how China and African countries can jointly tackle critical issues such as AIDS, malaria, schistosomiasis, reproductive health, access to lifesaving vaccines and non-communicable diseases.These health issues disproportionately affect African countries and have also been major health challenges for China. At the roundtable, China’s Director General of the National Health and Family Planning Commission joined Health Ministers from Botswana and Ghana; leaders from the African Union; representatives from the United Nations and non-governmental organizations; and entrepreneurs and business owners from China and Africa.
“Indeed, China and Africa have a long history of collaborating on health, built on shared challenges, experiences and addressing similar issues,” said Hon. Rev. Dr. John G. N. Seakgosing, Botswana’s Minister of Health. “China has a unique role in supporting African health progress. And with this roundtable, we look forward to deepening our partnership to benefit the health of our citizens.
This roundtable comes as China and Africa mark the 50th anniversary of providing medical teams to Africa, with China also supporting African health personnel, infrastructure, malaria control and other programs such as scholarships for training health experts. At this year’s roundtable, officials will discuss how to shape health cooperation between China and Africa and help achieve long-term, sustainable gains, such as strengthening health systems and addressing the shortage of healthcare workers.
“Africa’s future is closely linked with our own and improving health is a critical building block towards a common prosperity,” said Dr. Ren Minghui, Director General of the Department of International Cooperation at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. “African countries have made tremendous gains to improve the health of their citizens. With China and Africa working hand-in-hand on health, we can have even greater impact.”
A major theme of the roundtable is how African and Chinese officials can create win-win scenarios that will benefit all partners. Much of China’s health assistance invests in expanding African capacity, which can help strengthen the continent’s self-sufficiency and economic development. China has a unique role in supporting Africa’s health progress, drawing from its investments in health research and development and its experience improving the health of its own citizens, such as its current health reform effort, which is the largest expansion of healthcare coverage in history.
Roundtable participants will discuss how African countries can best work with Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical manufacturers to increase access to high-quality, low-cost health technologies, while ensuring products are safe and meet international quality standards. Participants will also explore how China can help support Africa’s local production of health products. At the same time, African leaders will share expertise on areas where China can learn from Africa, such as around AIDS prevention and treatment, to help improve China’s efforts at home. Africa has been very successful in scaling up HIV treatment as well as prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.
“South-South cooperation facilitates optimization of resources, both human and material. This creates opportunities to share knowledge and experience, which contributes to sustainable health solutions,” said H.E. Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner of Social Affairs of the African Union. “China-Africa health partnership is based on a sense of shared responsibility and global solidarity in responding to health challenges.”
The roundtable comes as China and other emerging economies are bringing new resources and approaches to improve the health of people around the world. “The global health landscape is changing, with more partners than ever joining these efforts,” said Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of Programme of UNAIDS. “The AIDS response and other experiences paved the way for transformative progress on health and can help China and Africa engage on a whole new level and innovate on a broad range of health issues.”
The roundtable sessions will be guided by discussion papers that draw on extensive research and discussion developed by the China-Africa Health Cooperation Taskforce, comprised of members of the Chinese government and leading technical institutions, with the support of international partners including the World Health Organization, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNAIDS, PATH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Health Strategies Initiatives (GHSi) and other organizations.
The papers propose pilot projects for China-Africa collaboration in areas such as strengthening laboratory systems; establishing national control systems for malaria and schistosomiasis; transferring ARV drug manufacturing technology and technical support for local production; training African health personnel; and sharing China’s expertise in cold chain management and surveillance systems to boost immunization coverage. Sessions will also address ways to ensure transparency in these efforts and to guarantee high quality products.
“China has tremendous potential to support Africa’s long-term development by leveraging innovation. The roundtable is an opportunity to define a path for China and Africa to make a positive impact together on health,” said Dr. Ray Yip, Director of the China Program of the Gates Foundation.
One aim of the roundtable is to develop joint recommendations that could lay the groundwork for a long-term strategic plan for China-Africa health cooperation, which could be considered at the Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development, part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which will take place in August in Beijing.
This year’s roundtable is hosted by the Botswana Ministry of Health, the China Chamber of Commerce of the Ministry of Commerce and the Institute for Global Health of Peking University. The roundtable series, organized by the Institute for Global Health and the China Institute of International Studies, began in 2009 as part of a China-led initiative to evaluate and improve its foreign assistance.