By Sola Ogundipe
Chinese and African leaders have met in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss ways of jointly tackling critical issues such as AIDS, malaria,schistosomiasis, reproductive health, access to life-saving vaccines and non-communicable diseases among others, as the 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation held to explore new partnerships to address pressing health challenges facing Africa and to strengthen an innovative health collaborative partnership.
Officials engaged in two days of sessions aimed at determining how China and African countries can tackle health issues disproportionately affecting African countries and have also been major health challenges for China.
Discussions bordered on 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.
Participants discussed how African countries can best work with Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical manufacturers to increase access to high-quality, low-cost health interventions and also explored how China can help support Africa’s local production of health products
and how Africa can share expertise with China on 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 programmes.
This year’s roundtable, first to take place in Africa, focused on promoting sustainable health solutions that meet the needs and priorities of African countries and draw on China’s unique expertise.
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.
Sessions were guided by discussions 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 roundtable held as China and Africa marked 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.
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.