In the southern suburb of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, the mid-December scorching sun did not affect the highly driven Chinese and African engineers who were battling against clock toward the timely completion of the China-aided future headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
As the much-anticipated state-of-the-art facility takes shape and fast approaches completion, the project's swift progress has won acclaim while igniting hopes of transforming public health in Africa.
Project fast approaching completion
Saizana Solomon, a young civil engineer, is one of some 1,000 personnel working at the bustling site around-the-clock to brace themselves to hit the construction schedule.
"We, local workers, and our Chinese colleagues are working in tandem day and night to successfully bring this project to an end within its stated timeframe. No matter how challenging it has been, we are very determined as we are getting closer to our goal," Solomon said, citing challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bethlehem Molla, safety officer at the Africa CDC project who has been working at the site for more than a year-and-half, said that the project construction is meeting expectations in terms of time efficiency, high construction standards, safety assurances as well as experience-sharing mechanisms.
"Before I joined here, I worked as an engineer with different local construction companies. One thing that fascinates me more here is the lofty construction standard. Every move and every detail really matters a lot here," she said.
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"To be able to achieve this progress within this short period while applying high construction standards is really a work of miracle to me," Molla added.
Bao Dongdong, a Chinese engineer from the safety supervision department at the project, said his work here will be a valuable life experience. "Compared to what it was a year and a half ago, it (the site of the project) turns from a wasteland to several buildings, for which I feel proud from my heart."
Project to boost Africa's public health management
Monique Nsanzabaganwa, deputy chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, told Xinhua recently that the project, upon completion, will enable the AU's specialized healthcare agency to better play its role of coordination, mobilization, and emergency management in public health. "We know that it is a very huge project, which is really commendable of China to support our agency in that manner."
According to Nsanzabaganwa, the China-aided Africa CDC headquarters project has been part of China's continued efforts in support of institutional strengthening of the Africa CDC.
Her comments were echoed by Teruneh Zenna, Ethiopia's former ambassador to the United Nations, as he argued that Africa lacks preparedness and medical institutions to cope with disease outbreaks such as Ebola and AIDS that have resulted in the deaths of countless people across the continent. He said having such a facility on African soil is praiseworthy.
"The Chinese are showing Africans that they are always at their side. Look at the AU headquarters they provided us with. Now, they are giving us the Africa CDC project with a modern laboratory, training, conference, and data centers," Zenna told Xinhua recently.
China has not only funded but is also building the future Africa CDC headquarters, which would accommodate all facilities in one place to scale up the African health system in a tremendous way, Zenna said.
Construction work for the project started in December 2020. The landmark project, featuring modern offices, high-end laboratories and accessories, covers an area of 90,000 square meters and was expected to be completed in 25 months. Construction of the project is progressing smoothly despite the challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to project contractors.
As the COVID-19 pandemic showcased Africa CDC's indisputable role in leading continental anti-pandemic efforts, experts believe the facility will further augment Africa CDC's institutional capabilities.
Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, a professor of public policy at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, told Xinhua recently that Africa has serious problems within the health sector with widening gaps in addressing various healthcare challenges. "Now, we have the Africa CDC, which is going to be a pivotal point for healthcare management in Africa. This will also strengthen the relationship between China and Africa."
Thriving healthcare cooperation
Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa CDC, in an interview with Xinhua, said that despite being a young organization officially launched in January 2017, the Africa CDC has been able to respond effectively to various outbreaks, including recurrent Ebola outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said during the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa and China have worked quite well in ensuring that information is flowing well between the two sides. "We have worked very well securing, particularly, test kits at the beginning of the pandemic, and as we built our own capacity locally, Chinese counterparts were very supportive when things were very difficult in starting our pandemic response on the continent."
Last month, the Africa CDC chief also commended China for partnering with African countries in the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent.
China's anti-pandemic support to African countries has widely won acclaim among individual African countries and pan-African institutions. Ethiopia, as one of the beneficiaries of China's global anti-pandemic cooperation, has received several batches of COVID-19 vaccine donations, including an additional 10 million Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine doses that were handed over back in June.
The different batches of China's vaccine donations to African countries and institutions demonstrated that China turns its commitments into tangible outcomes by putting people's lives first and working in solidarity with Africa.
According to Costantinos, China's support in terms of enabling healthcare institutions in Africa is "necessary for our physicians, nurses and other medical workers to be able to contain the current and future pandemics."