Chinese companies join the fight against COVID-19 throughout Africa
By Ge Lijun | VOL.12 May ·2020-04-29
Employees of the Isimba Hydro Power Project are taken temperature before starting to work (CWE)
At a Chinese electricity project deep inside Uganda, Muzinga Hamis and his colleagues put up numerous signs reminding staff and villagers to wear masks, practice social distancing and check their body temperature daily. Their goal is to promote the idea of self-protection and being responsible for the health of others.
"I learned from the press that China has made great strides in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. While fighting the pandemic within its borders, China has also provided assistance to countries in need," Hamis told ChinAfrica.
He has been working as a Community Liaison Officer for the Isimba Hydro Power Project since May 2016. Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, his focus has been to raise awareness about the risks of the coronavirus and to inform project staff and surrounding communities how to protect themselves against this global threat. In fact, as the pandemic is spreading on the African continent, many Chinese companies and organizations have been supporting their African host countries by donating medical supplies and personal protective equipment, and sending groups of medical experts to joint in the fight against the virus.
On September 6, 2013, the China International Water and Electric Corp. (CWE), a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corp., and the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development signed a contract for the engineering, procurement and construction of the Isimba Hydro Power Project. The project is located on the White Nile, about 50 km downstream from Lake Victoria. The plant was commissioned and handed over to the Ugandan Government in March 2019. Currently the company is engaged in the construction of a bridge over the Nile, downstream from the power station.
On March 21, 2020, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Uganda. This posed a major challenge to the Isimba project. "Great efforts have been made to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our staff, while maintaining construction work," Project Manager Xia Nenghai told ChinAfrica.
As soon as the first case was detected, project management immediately launched an emergency plan. This included appropriate storage of medical supplies, construction materials and daily necessities, the reduction of the number of workers on site and the implementation of a containment policy on the compound. The company cooperated with the project employer in the fight against the virus by providing face masks, thermometers and disinfectants as well as arranging accommodation for 450 Ugandan employees.
At the same time, CWE cooperated with Kayunga District, where the project is located, providing drinking water to personnel controlling the virus outbreak and supplying fuel for their vehicles.
According to Xia, the company plans to donate a batch of anti-pandemic gears to the Ugandan Ministry of Health to alleviate the current shortage in the country. In addition, they will provide medical protective gears to the staff of project employer.
Contract Engineer Mohammed Idrees, who came from Pakistan, said, "The measures taken by CWE, whether concerning the company, the owner or the employees, are excellent." He believes this will help stop the spread of the virus on site. Idrees has been working for CWE on the Isimba project for the past three years, after completing his six-year assignments in Sudan for the Dam Complex of Upper Atbara Project. At the time of writing, there had been no confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 on the project site.
"Protecting human life has always had a huge importance in all of our projects. We must do our best to ensure the safety of our employees," said Wang Xiaobing, CWE Executive Vice President.
Measures taken at CWE is only one of a number of cooperative initiatives between China and Africa aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
"When people are determined, they can overcome anything." Nelson Mandela's famous quote was written on the boxes of Chinese anti-epidemic materials that arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 22. In total, the first batch contained 6 million face masks, 1.1 million test kits, 60,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 face shields. The donation was made by the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation to support the 54 African countries in their fight against the pandemic. Cainiao network, Alibaba's logistics arm, was put in charge of transporting the materials from China to Ethiopia.
"We first shipped materials from several warehouses across the country to the Guangzhou warehouse, as our chartered plane was to depart from Guangzhou. Once in Africa, the materials were distributed to other African countries with the help of the Ethiopian Government, the World Health Organization and the World Food Program," said Mao Lingke, Senior Logistics Advisor at Cainiao Global Supply Chain.
He told ChinAfrica that an agreement was struck between Jack Ma, Founder of the Alibaba Group, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, after which implementation of the plan was given the green light.
"The second batch of material was shipped on April 3-5. It was larger than the first batch, and included 500 ventilators and 500,000 protective gloves, among other items," said Mao.
Other Chinese companies have also joined the aid cooperation. The Huajian Group, which operates a shoe factory in Ethiopia, donated a wide range of personal protection equipment. The equipment was sent to eight African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, at the end of March.
Chinese companies are not only donating medical equipment, but also supporting the development of anti-epidemic infrastructure in a number of African countries. In Zimbabwe, Chinese companies, along with the Chinese Embassy, have mobilized resources worth more than $500,000 to renovate the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, which has been designated as the main isolation and treatment facility for COVID-19 patients in that country.
Meanwhile, on April 8, a group of medical experts sourced by China Railway Construction Corp. Ltd. arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, to share their experiences from China and assist local employees in their fight against the epidemic. The company first started operating in Nigeria 39 years ago.
"I am deeply grateful to China for being a responsible country during the pandemic, taking the most effective measures to contain the spread of the virus, and giving our country more time to prepare. I believe that we will finally win this battle," said Hamis.