The HIV/AIDS factor at FOCAC By Kemi Yesufu

 

When it was announced that the wife of the President, Dr. Aisha Buhari and her daughter were accompanying, President Muhammadu Buhari to the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which held between September 3 and 4, not much detail was given on the role she would play at the conference.

FOCAC, consisting of China and 53 African member states and the commission of the African Union is a platform for high-level dialogue between China-Africa leaders and business representatives.

But soon enough, Mrs. Buhari, disclosed on Twitter that she  attended the China-Africa AIDS Prevention and Control meeting hosted by the First Lady of China, Professor Peng Liyuan.

Ever since the establishment of FOCAC, cooperation between China and African countries has been strengthened in major areas, such as industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, green development, poverty alleviation, public health, trade and investment facilitation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, peace and security.

 

From a women and youth empowerment perspective and beyond the trade and  investment deals, which dominated media reportage-the meeting between Prof. Liyuan and Mrs. Buhari is also of great significance. It is, in fact a pointer to the actuality, that Chinese President Xi Jinping is committed to the ten cooperation plans, which is implemented through the eight development initiatives, he listed in his keynote speech at the summit.

President Xi  said in the address, which he emphasized on China and Africa having a shared future, that he will launch the industrial promotion initiative, the infrastructure connectivity initiative, the green development initiative, the capacity building initiative, the healthcare initiative,  the trade facilitation initiative, the people to people initiative and finally, the peace and security initiative.

 

The $60 billion investment in Africa by the Chinese government as stated during the Chinese leader’s speech is to fund these initiatives, which he opined will be of enormous benefit to young people in Africa.

As one of the participants at the 2017 28th African Union (AU) Summit which had the theme: “Harnessing Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth: Empowering Young People, Empowering Young Women”, I believe that any form of cooperation between leaders on the continent and a global power like China, must be youth centered and youth driven.

 Demographic dividend occurs as benefits that can arise when a country has a relatively large population in the working age bracket and it effectively in invests in their health, empowerment, employment and education, through government and private sector collaboration.

Looking around Africa, a continent with the youngest population globally, many would describe as creditable, the choice of President Xi to ultimately place youths at the centre of Afro-China cooperation.

 Between 1960 and 2010, Africa’s working age population (15-64 years) grew more than four times and it will continue increase over the next forty years.  But the continent’s unimpressive developmental indices has seen youths contend with challenges a high percentage of  their cotemporaries in advanced economies, don’t have to deal with.

 Unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 18.80 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 16.20 percent in the second quarter of 2017.South Africa’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 26.7% of the labour force in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the last quarter of 2017.

When it comes to health outcomes in Africa, the figures aren’t any better. Half of the 10 million children who die annually in the world are from Sub-Saharan Africa. Also contributing to the death of young people and children is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Nigeria has the second-largest number of people living with HIV. Nigeria is only second to South Africa which has the biggest and most high profile HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 7 million people living with the virus in 2015.

The aforementioned statistics is why a person-person cooperation on HIV/AIDs  between African First Ladies, like Mrs. Buhari and Mrs. Liyuan is timely, just as it is very much relevant to FOCAC.

 

The health interventions outlined by President Xi,  should be top priority in the follow up by Nigeria and other African countries. African leaders must display necessary political will to effectively cooperate with China, as it plans to upgrade 50 medical and health aid programs on the continent, particularly flagship projects such as the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention and China-Africa Friendship Hospitals.

 

The Chinese leader also explained that cooperation programs will be launched on the prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS and malaria.

 

This is as he said, China will train more medical specialists for Africa and continue to send medical teams that better meet Africa’s needs. More mobile medical services will be provided to patients for the treatment of cataract, heart disease and dental defects. And targeted health care services will be provided to women and children of vulnerable groups in Africa, President Xi, further disclosed in his speech.

It is telling that President Xi highlighted his youths capacity building initiative immediately after his health promotion plan, as Africa more than ever must keep his youthful population alive and healthy, for it to play a role in the great future President Xi predicted many times, when he spoke to African leaders.

 

Kemi Yesufu a development analyst wrote in from Abuja via :yesufukemi@gmail.com

*This article was first published in Business Day, Friday 14

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