Zimbabwe’s leader thanks China’s Xi, pledges to boost ties

Updated 03 April 2018
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Zimbabwe’s leader thanks China’s Xi, pledges to boost ties

  • Mnangagwa is under pressure to bring back foreign investors and resolve a severe currency shortage
  • In the 1960s, China helped train and supply guerrilla fighters from the Zanu’s military wing in the fight for liberation
BEIJING: Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday for Beijing’s political support and pledged to strengthen ties with the Asian giant on his first visit since his dramatic rise to power last year.
Xi welcomed Mnangagwa to Beijing when they met following a formal welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.
“You are an old friend of China and I appreciate your efforts to develop relations in all areas,” Xi said in opening remarks. Xi praised Mnangagwa’s efforts to “improve people’s lives” in Zimbabwe, though he did not go into specifics.
“As Zimbabwe’s good friend and partner, we are very happy about this,” Xi said.
 
 
Ahead of an election scheduled for August 2018 at the latest, Mnangagwa is under pressure to bring back foreign investors and resolve a severe currency shortage, mass unemployment and dramatic price increases.
Mnangagwa, who along with members of his delegation wore a scarf in the colors of Zimbabwe’s flag, thanked Xi for his reception and recalled his military training in China in 1963-64. In the 1960s, China helped train and supply guerrilla fighters from the Zanu’s military wing in the fight for liberation. Mnangagwa, 75, was part of that effort after he joined the fight against white minority rule in then-Rhodesia.
Mnangagwa congratulated Xi on his re-election as president and on the establishment of his political theory, simply referred to as “Xi Jinping Thought.”
“I will take this mantra to Zimbabwe and hope to develop some socialism in Zimbabwe with Zimbabwean characteristics,” Mnangagwa said.
The trip is Mnangagwa’s first since longtime leader Robert Mugabe resigned in November under pressure from the military. Mugabe’s government maintained warm relations with Beijing but was accused of widespread corruption.
Some of that ill-gotten wealth was reported to have gone through China, which became increasingly enmeshed with Zimbabwe’s government and economy as Western nations withdrew over human rights concerns and mismanagement of the once-prosperous country.
Among those projects is the 300 megawatt expansion of the Kariba South by China’s Sinohydro in a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Chinese companies were also major players in Zimbabwe’s diamond fields until the government canceled all licenses to make way for a state monopoly in 2016.
Since then, Zimbabwe has continued to face huge economic challenges, including severe cash shortages and dramatic increases in the price of food and other household items that have prompted it to look to China for loans and investment.
At the time of Mugabe’s resignation, China said it still considered him a “good friend” who “has long been committed to friendship between China and Zimbabwe.”
However, questions were raised as to whether China had played a role or been notified in advance of the move against Mugabe because of a visit days before by Zimbabwe’s army commander at the time, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, to Beijing.
Analysts said China had increasingly considered Mugabe a liability. Beijing has said only that Chiwenga’s visit was a “normal military exchange.”
Most recently, the United States has sounded an alarm that the Chinese money flooding Africa risks bringing dependency, exploitation and intrusion on nations’ basic sovereignty.
Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, that while Chinese investment is “badly needed,” African countries should “carefully consider the terms.”

Decoder

Chinese ambitions in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is among the African countries targeted by China’s trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative promising roads, ports, and other infrastructure. That’s widely seen as providing the continent’s economy with a much-needed boost, although some have questioned the long-term ability of recipient nations to pay for the projects.


Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

Updated 14 min 34 sec ago
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Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

  • The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015
LONDON: The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.
Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who is not linked to WHO or vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands from falling ill or even dying.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. A previous trial showed the vaccine was about 30% effective in children who got four doses, but that protection waned over time. Reported side effects include pain, fever and convulsions.
Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s malaria program, said similar vaccination programs would begin in the coming weeks in Kenya and Ghana, with the aim of reaching about 360,000 children per year across the three countries.
Alonso called the vaccination rollout a “historical moment,” noting that it was significantly more difficult to design a vaccine against a parasite as opposed to a bacterium or virus.
He acknowledged the vaccine was flawed but said the world could not afford to wait for a better option. “We don’t know how long it will take to develop the next-generation vaccine,” he said. “It may be many, many years away.”
In the meantime, he said, the stalled progress against malaria demanded new tools now. Resistance is growing to medicines that treat the disease, while mosquitoes are becoming more resistant to insecticides. In addition, funding for malaria efforts has plateaued in recent years.
It took GSK and partners more than 30 years to develop the vaccine, at a cost of around $1 billion. GSK is donating up to 10 million vaccine doses in the current vaccination initiatives. A company spokesman said GSK is working with partners to secure funding for potentially broader vaccination programs.
Some experts warned the vaccination programs should not divert limited public health funds from inexpensive and proven tools to curb malaria such as bed nets and insecticides.
“This is a bold thing to do, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Thomas Churcher, a malaria expert at Imperial College London. “As long as using the vaccine doesn’t interfere with other efforts, like the urgent need for new insecticides, it is a good thing to do.”
Craig said one of health officials’ biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time.
More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.
“This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like,” Craig said. “But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn’t end here.”