Mbabane: It stands to be seen whether Eswatini will benefit or not from the China donation of 30 million tests kits to the African continent, in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe.
The donation was made known by South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, following talks with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping on Sunday.
Ramaphosa is also the incumbent chairman of the African Union (AU). The question whether Eswatini will benefit from the test kits from Beijing stems from the fact that in February this year, China stepped up its pressure on Eswatini to dump Taiwan by threatening to cut all trade should the kingdom not recognise its One-China Policy.
The then brash, outspoken and confrontational, Ambasador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, is reported to have said his country was threatening to “cripple” Eswatini business and economic development should it refuse to switch allegiance from Taiwan to China immediately.
Before his quiet departure, Songtian had categorically stated clearly that “no diplomatic relations, no business benefits.” He then made sure that it was hard for Eswatini businesspeople to get visas to China, resulting the businesspeople struggling to purchase stock from Beijing.
It also emerged that Eswatini lost on the opportunity to host the the2020 AU Summit. Eswatini lost the opportunity after having invested handsomely in the construction of the International Convention Centre and Five Star Hotel with the hope of hosting the African Union (AU), Eswatini could be feeling the pinch for maintaining diplomatic ties with Mainland China’s province – Taiwan.
Songtian told the Eswatini media that African countries threatened to boycott an AU Summit in any country that undermines the membership of their ally in the United Nations but continues to maintain diplomatic ties with a territory that was expelled from UN because its leaders had occupied seats unlawfully, adding that China’s allies in Africa were totally against the Summit being held in a country that disrespected Mainland China. The Summit shifted to South Africa.
However, Eswatini’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperatives, Thuli Dladla, said the issue of China’s donation rested not on bilateral relations between the two countries, but multilateral endeavours. Dladla said the matter had been transferred from being controlled by China and was now with the Chairman of the African Union (AU), South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who would ensure that as part of Africa, Eswatini would also benefit. She said in fact, there is no animosity or conflict between Eswatini and China and the two respected each other a great deal.
Other than the 30 million tests kits, China will also ship 10 000 ventilators and 80 million masks a month to Africa, said Ramaphosa in a briefing to reporters broadcast online on Sunday.
“What we are now doing, is to set up a procurement platform, which we are going to launch next week, which will allow every country on the continent to be able to procure from a central place and benefit,” from the Chinese shipments, Ramaphosa said.
State-owned carriers South African Airways (SAA), Ethiopian Airlines Group and Kenya Airways plc will deliver the shipments. “This is going to give a great boost to South African Airways, because this process will be going on for many months,” Ramaphosa said.
African nations have 142 289 cases of Covid-19, with 4 084 deaths from the disease, according to data from the Africa Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. The continent has experienced shortages of diagnostic equipment and therapeutic medical supplies.