Wednesday, June 24, 2020

West’s ‘Debt Trap’ Allegation Against China an Insult to Africa: AU Ambassador
By Xie Wenting
2020/6/17 1:29:14

Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman, the Permanent Representative of the African Union to China Photo: Li Jieyi/GT

As COVID-19 rages around the world, taking a heavy toll and requiring joint global efforts to battle the ruthless virus, some Western media outlets and politicians are using the pandemic to attack China, and one of their key focuses is an anti-China campaign to sabotage China-Africa relations.

While some Western countries hype falsities such as China-Africa relations encountering setbacks amid the pandemic, and China's so-called economic colonialism leading African countries into a debt trap, Ambassador Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman, the Permanent Representative of the African Union to China, dismissed these claims as groundless in an exclusive interview with the Global Times.

The ambassador told the Global Times he thinks there is "a campaign against Africa-China relations, [and] part of the campaign" is hyping anti-China and anti-Africa sentiments as well as the debt trap allegation, which some media outlets use to create problems between China and Africa.

Osman said the accusation that China is economically colonizing Africa is "a sort of insult to Africa" and is totally untrue.

The accusation is "part of the rivalry between the international groups. All of them are competing for economic dominance, so they believe that China is trying to dominate the African continent. Maybe they have in mind how they dominated the continent during the last centuries," said the diplomat.

"We know what we are doing in Africa. And when we come to do business with China, we know why we're doing this business," he added.

Western media reports suggest there is anti-China sentiment in Africa due to the coronavirus, but the ambassador said there is no such widespread sentiment, only "individual cases here and there."

"For instance, in my country - Sudan - we have a very big community of Chinese people and I haven't heard any single case" of animosity toward Chinese people," he said, noting the safety of Chinese people in Africa is guaranteed.

Some media are fond of creating problems, said Osman. "Even if it's a quarrel between a Chinese citizen and an African citizen, they will write that China is against Africa or Africa is against China," he said.

"They don't show the good things between China and Africa. If they find a Chinese citizen with an African who are getting together and laughing together… this is not news [story] for them."

Months ago, Western media also hyped "discrimination" against Africans in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province during the epidemic. The ambassador said the Guangzhou incident was just an isolated case caused by the "harsh implementation" of epidemic prevention and he believes China has zero tolerance for discrimination.

He noted to the Global Times that the case just happened in one city, and now it's over. For the large African community in China, they are living peacefully in the country.

Remarkable cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday chaired the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19.

Noting that China and Africa have withstood the test of a severe challenge and enhanced solidarity, friendship and mutual trust in the face of COVID-19, Xi said the two sides must mobilize necessary resources, stick together in collaboration to protect people's lives and health, and minimize the fallout of COVID-19.

He called on both sides to stay committed to fighting COVID-19 together, saying that China will continue to do whatever it can to support Africa's response, Xinhua reported.

The summit, held via video link, was jointly proposed by China, South Africa, the rotating chair of the African Union (AU), and Senegal, co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Osman said that he "would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the help extended by China to Africa to contain the pandemic.

"While the coronavirus disrupted normal exchanges between China and Africa, the two sides still remain in close touch, he said. China has sent medical groups to the continent and shared its experience in containing the virus.

The ambassador said the cooperation between China and Africa in fighting the coronavirus is "definitely remarkable."

"We are very closely coordinating and [this] is not limited to [China] providing medicines and equipment. There are also Chinese medical teams visiting Africa to exchange views on how to tackle the coronavirus. Chinese scientists are also working with African scientists," he said.

According to the diplomat, China's success in containing the virus is an example other countries can learn from. The African CDC is supported by China and Chinese scientists are working together with their African counterparts.

Thanks to the policies the African continent has adopted together with the assistance provided by China, Africa remains one of "the least affected" continents so far, he said.

As the pandemic has caused problems and challenges for the whole world, Africa is in the process of talking to China about tackling new problems. "We expect we will reach amicable and win-win results," said the ambassador.

He noted there still needs to be an assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 and implementation of the plan of action that has been endorsed by both sides, which he said he hopes starts soon.

Financing infrastructure

The ambassador admitted that some difficulties may arise from cooperation, especially in the financing of big projects, but these projects are important for the continent's long-term development.

As the Chinese saying goes, if you want to develop you have to build the road first, and infrastructure is what Africa needs.

"If you want to move from East Africa to West Africa, you have to go through maybe Europe or through different ports in order to reach a country which is maybe 1,000 kilometer away," the ambassador explained.

Osman said Africa's infrastructure needs development so the continent relied on China to finance the infrastructure projects. "For those who are criticizing China for financing this, they never lend Africa to build infrastructure projects. Never!" he said. He added that over the last two decades, only China was willing to finance these big infrastructure projects for Africa.

The financing problem, as he put it, should not be used to smear the cooperation between the two sides. Besides, it's also untrue to accuse China of "taking" Africa's natural resources when some countries chose to pay their debt with their resources.

While some of those projects are facing repayment difficulties, the ambassador said this is a normal part of the risk of any economic project as he stressed the necessity of conducting feasibility studies to guarantee the repayment of the debt over the long run.

To better help African countries deal with debt affairs amid the coronavirus, China announced to cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020 within the FOCAC framework, Xinhua reported.

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