Speech by Ambassador LIN Songtian at the plenary session of Symposium on China-Africa Partnership: Improving Access to Health and Medical Products
(22 November, Shanghai International Convention Center)
Distinguished Mr.Wang Guoqiang, Vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission,
Distinguished Ms. Samira Merai Feriaa, Minister of Health of Tunisia,
Distinguished ministers and guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to attend the symposium on China-Africa Partnership: Improving Access to Health and Medical Products. The theme of this symposium concentrates on the outstanding problems faced by current African public health, meets the urgent needs of the development of African medical and health services and the new trend of international cooperation with Africa in medical and health services, and is of great practical significance. I would like to extend my warm congratulations on the successful opening of this symposium.
Medical and health have always been a priority and an important part of China-Africa cooperation. For a long time, China has provided medical and health assistance to Africa within its capacity. Since 1963, China has sticked to dispatching medical teams to Africa with 43 medical teams serving in 42 African countries currently. Since 2000, China has assisted and constructed 68 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and control centers in Africa , provided medical equipment and medicine to African countries each year, made unremitting efforts to train medical personnel in Africa, and has made positive contributions to the development of Africa’s medical and health services and safeguarding the health of African people, therefore is highly appreciated by African countries and people. It is worth mentioning that in 2014 when three countries in west Africa were ravaged by Ebola, China took pioneering actions to provide assistance. Instead of withdrawing of its citizens, China sent its elite medical troops in units to the affected countries in Africa and fought side by side with local people until the final success. This is the greatest aid program in China’s history with the longest duration, hugest scale, and biggest efforts ever undertaken by China to support African countries in their response to public health crisis. This has moved the three African countries , motivated other countries to provide assistance , and clearly answered the question what does mean the brotherly friendship between China and Africa of going through thick and thin.
The raging epidemic of Ebola in west African countries has exposured the fragility of Africa’s disease prevention and control system and insufficient capacity to deal with the problems. Moreover, the problems of long-term lack of medical treatment and basic medical and health care for African people have not yet been effectively resolved. A vast majority of African people are unable to procure drug or receive medical treatment, and even the basic drug required for surgery such as anesthetic and normal saline are not available. This is a scar on the human morality and also the greatest regret of the cause of human rights in the world.
The fundamental root for Africa’s lack of medical treatment and medicine is twofold: on one hand, African countries have not yet shaken off poverty and have failed to achieve self-sustainable development; on the other hand, there are “standards and technical barriers” for the pharmaceutical production and market access in Africa set by the standards of the developed countries which seriously hampering the access of medicine in Africa. Applying the most advanced standards of the developed countries to the world’s poorest countries in Africa and setting up “standards and technical barriers” in African medical and health serivices without considering the reality in Africa provides an excuse and guarantee for Western pharmaceutical companies to monopolize the African pharmaceutical market and obtain high profits, but seriously hinders African countries from importing cheap and fine drugs from emerging developing countries, therefore makes the basic drug the inaccessible “luxury” for African people.
To be frank, the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO), has spent hundreds of billions dollars assistance on medical and health areas in Africa for many years. However, the backward medical conditions and frequent outbreak of large-scale contagious diseases in Africa have not yet been effectively improved. Facts have proved that the problem of insufficient medical treatment facing more than 1 billion people in Africa cannot be solved by solely relying on external assistance; the continuous use of “standards and technical barriers” that have long been proved to be useless in improving medical conditions in Africa is also unable to achieve drug access in Africa. Therefore, reconsideration and improvement of existing standards for the pharmaceutical production and market access in Africa, and innovation of international cooperation model for African medical and health have become the precondition and important way to improve the access to medicine in Africa. We strongly call on the international community, particularly WHO and the developed countries, to pay high attention to this issue. To this end, we recommend that:
First, we shall review and redesign the pharmaceutical production and market access standards in line with the reality of Africa. WHO and the African Union (AU) should review and establish drug production and market access standards suitable for and serving to Africa based on the characteristics, development level, and realistic needs of African countries, encourage international pharmaceutical enterprises to invest and set up factories in Africa to ensure the smooth circulation of drug on the market and more cost-effective, affordable pharmaceutical products exported to or manufactured in Africa, hence maximumly meet the basic health needs of African people.
Second, we shall realize the localization of drug production as soon as possible. Developed countries should earnestly honor their commitments to provide funds and transfer technology to Africa and support African countries to improve their capacity to manufacture pharmaceutical products independently. AU and WHO should take effective measures to eliminate barriers to access to pharmaceutical production in Africa, encourage and support foreign enterprises to invest and set up factories in African countries, and realize the localization of drug production, thereby fundamentally lower drug prices, enhance drug access, and at the same time create jobs and save foreign earning and increase self-sustainable development capacity. Meanwhile, we hope African countries could provide more preferential policies and convenient services for foreign pharmaceutical companies to invest and produce in Africa.
Third, we shall strengthen the research on traditional African medicine and improve the medical production to promote access to medicine in Africa. Africa has a brilliant civilization and rich natural resources. The international community should strongly support the African countries to exploit the potential of traditional medicine, draw on local resources and develop the traditional medicine products suited to local conditions. By combining traditional African medicine with modern technology, we can make full use of local resources as well as enable African people to enjoy the fruits of modern science and technology.
Fourth, we shall promote medical cooperation in diversified and inclusive way . Africa is an important member of the international community. It is the common responsibility of the international community to sincerely help the African countries get rid of the difficulties inmedical and health as soon as possible. Based on the humanitarian ground and aimed to build a community of shared future for all mankind, we should encourage the African countries to diversify their international partners, give full use of each other’s comparative advantages , and jointly make greater contributions to supporting Africa to change the backward condition in medical and health as soon as possible.
China used to be a country with poor medical service, hence people’s health was hardly safeguarded. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially since the reform and opening up, China has made a frog leap in the medical and health sector, boosting people’s health condition rapidly. At present, China’s average life expectancy exceeds 76 years, an increase of 41 years compared with that in the early years of the new China. Within just a few decades, China has established a robust public health and safety control system, and addressed the health problem for over 1.3 billion people. China is the first developing country to eliminate smallpox, polio, and other infectious diseases. The fruitful achievements and successful experience of medical and health development do not merely belong to China. We are willing to share China’s achievements and experience unconditionally with African countries.
The Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ( FOCAC ) in last December was a great success. It developed a new blueprint for China-Africa cooperation, marked the beginning of a new era for China-Africa win-win cooperation for common development. President Xi Jinping articulated the new concept and thinking of China’s Policy to Africa comprehensively and systematically and declared to elevate the China-Africa relations to comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership and to implement Ten Cooperation Plans with Africa in the next three years. Furthermore, China pledged US$60 billion of funding support for the implementation of the Ten Cooperation Plans, including supporting Africa in strengthening its public health system and capacity building.
The Ten Cooperation Plans are highly consistent with the development goals and priority areas set by the Agenda 2063 of African Union. The main idea is, driven by cooperation in industrialization and agricultural modernization, with a focus on industry alignment and production capacity cooperation, to support Africa in its efforts to remove the three bottlenecks impeding development, namely, the backward infrastructure, inadequate professional and skilled personnel, and lack of financial inputs, thus to help Africa develop its industrial system, food security system and public health system for self-sustainable development, so as to address the three issues crucial to people’s well-being, i.e. employment, food security and health care, and realize enduring peace and self-sustainable development.
At present, the imprementation of the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit is being translated into action. While helping Africa realize self-sustainable development, China is willing to vigorously promote China-African medical and health cooperation, and give priority to supporting Africa in its efforts to strengthen public health prevention and control system and capacity building. Meanwhile, China will actively encourage and support competitive and reputable Chinese pharmaceutical enterprises to invest and set up factories in Africa, so as to produce medicine in great need locally, to help Africa increase access to medicine, and to support Africa in its efforts to achieve the goal of health and medical care for all. We stand ready to uphold the concepts of openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation as well as the principles of “Africa-proposed, Africa-agreed and Africa-led”, and work with other countries and international organizations including WHO to carry out various forms of medical and health cooperation, thereby making new contributions to the cause of health for African people.