Former Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili has vowed not to back down in her claims that China owes Africa billions of dollars in compensation for its poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She restated her claim in a rejoinder published by The Africa Report on Sunday.
In a controversial article published by Washington Post on April 16, the former Vice President (Africa Region) at the World Bank noted that the continent deserved to be paid a compensation for the damages COVID-19 pandemic is inflicting on lives and livelihoods.
But the Co-founder of Transparency International, who described the Chinese government’s response as ” prickly”, vowed not to back down in her demand until they are met.
According to her, the Chinese government missed an opportunity to address the serious issues she raised in her previous piece.
She maintained that all 54 countries in Africa, including her country Nigeria, were now “struggling to respond to the disruptive effects of China’s failure to take responsibility for a pandemic that could have been easily contained and localised to avoid the ruin it has caused our continent and the world at large.”
“Since Beijing failed to adhere to basic scientific and research transparency in the critical early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, it must accept responsibility with humility.
“Therefore, a legitimate demand for accountability and payment of penalties by rich and powerful countries for damages their behaviours do to vulnerable people ought not to attract the kind of sour response China released,” she observed.
She highlighted six points that the Xi Jinping administration must consider.
Ezekwesili noted that it was now clear from information available in the public domain that China’s “opaque handling” of COVID-19 at the onset exacerbated the problem.
Secondly, she stated that China’s “acts of negligence in December and early January resulted in a fast-spreading global pandemic that collapsed the continent’s economic growth from 2.9% in 2019 to negative 5.1% in 2020.
“Most importantly, China should, in the interim, take responsibility and ease the severe fiscal pressure on our countries, by announcing a cancellation of over $140bn in loans its government, contractors and banks have advanced to Africa over the last two decades.
“Following this debt cancelation, an international consortium made up of the G20, China, Africa Union Commission and global institutions like the United Nations, World Bank and IMF should be constituted to assess the full extent of damages and the compensation due.”
She explained that the third point was that Africa would no longer be lackeys to any world powers. She said in accusing her of “dancing to the tune of others”, China revealed its “appalling mindset” towards Africans.
“We do not dance to the drumbeat of any country or any continent — our sole tune is the African Beat,” the ex-Nigerian Solid Minerals minister noted.
She said that the Fourth point remained that China has a problem with transparency, stressing that “Beijing has so far failed to embrace my suggestion to allow an Independent International Panel of Experts to review and assess China’s handling of the COVID19 pandemic. Why?
“Is China afraid of full disclosure that can help the world learn vital lessons on how to manage global threats and risks better?”
The Fifth point, Ezekwesili noted, was that a global “New Normal” required faster prevention of COVID-19-like global health disasters and as such powerful countries should commit to “absolute transparency and removal of information asymmetries”.
“Sixth, it should be in China’s historic and conscientious national interest to prevent future exploitation of vulnerable countries by economic superpowers. I did acknowledge previous global risks that similarly emanated from other rich and powerful countries and injured Africa’s economic growth and development.
“I find it hard to believe that China, given its history and experience with colonial mistreatment, would want this cyclical pattern to continue. Do the authorities in Beijing really want Africans to simply accept harmful actions of rich and powerful countries?” Ezekwesili queried.