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Assessing China’s “Corona Diplomacy” in Africa

Even though China spends considerably less than the U.S. and Europeans on public health assistance in Africa, Beijing is seemingly dominating the narrative with its high profile donations of food, PPE, and medical missions.

Lidet Tadesse, a policy officer in the Security and Resilience Program at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, an independent think tank in Brussels, said in a recent blog post that the fact the Chinese aren’t just giving money to aid agencies, as is the case with a lot of EU and U.S. assistance, but are instead delivering badly-needed masks and other materials is critical to understand why Chinese aid is being well-received on the continent. Also, she added, the fact that China is perceived to have brought COVID-19 under control while the U.S. and European countries are still struggling to contain the outbreak is another important factor.

But “it’s not all roses and rainbows,” she cautioned in her article. While the Chinese have certainly generated a lot of positive buzz around their COVID-19 aid and relief efforts, big problems loom on the horizon. 

How Beijing proceeds with African debt relief and the ongoing resentment among large swathes of African civil society in the aftermath of what happened in Guangzhou could easily erase the goodwill built up over the few months from all of those donations.

Lidet joins Eric & Cobus to assess the current state of “China’s corona diplomacy” and to explain why she thinks the Chinese approach to COVID-19 relief efforts on the continent is seen as more successful than those from other countries.

Show Notes:

About Lidet Tadesse:

Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw, an Ethiopian, is a Policy Officer in the Security and Resilience Programme. She has an MA in International Peacebuilding from University of Notre Dame (USA). She’s interested in regional and multinational approaches to peacebuilding in Africa in general and the Horn of Africa in particular.

Before joining ECDPM. Lidet has worked as an Independent Consultant where she supported research and advocacy efforts of various other civil society organizations engaged in east Africa. She previously worked as a Policy Advisor of the Life & Peace Institute, Horn of Africa Regional Program, where she supported the organization’s policy engagement with the African Union and IGAD. Lidet has also worked as an intern at the Peace and Security Department of the African Union.

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