African and Chinese delegates have come together in Botswana to exchange experiences on how to tackle health problems. Usually Africa is the one receiving advice from abroad. But African countries say they can teach other nations about health policies and how to tackle AIDS.
China, which participated in the fourth International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation, is willing to listen, said Teguest Guerma, director of the African Medical Research Foundation, or AMREF. She said that China can learn from Africa as well when it comes to tackling HIV/AIDS, as China’s HIV epidemic is much newer.
“We started by having behavior change, as a prevention mechanism in HIV/AIDS, but it didn’t work. Only behavior change doesn’t work, you need to have combination prevention. And also they have a number of blood transfusions that is happening in China so they can learn on how we have done to prevent HIV by blood transmission. And also how we mobilize the people, how we scaled up treatment, all this things they can learn from us," she said.
China and Africa both face challenges with AIDS and family planning issues, while Africa lacks doctors and researchers necessary to improve health care. But most of the discussions at the Roundtable were focused on getting Chinese knowledge, resources, and investment opportunities to Africa.
Ren Minghui of the Chinese Department of International Cooperation says that improving health care services in Africa will require a bigger participation from the Chinese private sector, and the Chinese government is supporting this effort.
“Chinese manufacturing industry can play an important role to support African countries in terms of good quality and low price products, because we solved our own health issues by making products in China and vaccines," he said. "Why this good quality at lower cost product can not be shared with African countries?”
Bunmi Makwina is the United Nations Population Fund director in Eastern and Southern Africa. He says that no one should be surprised that there are certain interests for the Chinese.
“The question is if there’s a purpose for the other side too, it has to be mutually reinforcing too. For African countries, they need to be more aware of what benefits they can get, so even if China wants to come here for raw materials, yes, what’s wrong with that? But how can we turn those raw materials into other resources for Africa, that is the question that African countries must ask themselves," he said.
This year’s Roundtable resulted in a number of proposals on how Africa and China can deepen their cooperation on health policies. These proposals include projects such as training more African health workers, establishing control systems for malaria and sharing China’s expertise in surveillance systems to boost immunization coverage.