Oxford University

China Africa Network

Opportunism or Altruism? Global Health in China-Africa Relations 

Date: 30 May 2017

Venue: University of Oxford China Centre, Dickson Poon Building, St Hugh’s College

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In 2017, the OUCAN annual conference will explore global health as facet of China-Africa relations. Today, global health is a multibillion-dollar enterprise. It is driven by growing recognition of the interconnectedness of the world’s populations; fears that deadly diseases like Ebola or avian flu can rapidly spread around the globe; the threat of bioterrorism; a desire to reduce global inequalities in health; efforts to promote economic development; and the political and economic interests of donor countries. Global health is largely funded and coordinated by the so-called H8: the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. However, academic and policy discourses in global health increasingly recognise China as a major player in the field. It is argued that China’s approach to global health is distinctive: based on its unique history, comparative strength, and policies driven by several governmental ministries. Such received wisdom should not be taken at face value but should be scrutinised rigorously. The current scale and complexity of China’s global-health assistance may be unprecedented, but the central motivations, organising principles, and modes of operation that characterise it are not. This one-day conference is an effort to engage critically with the manifold ways in which health features in China-Africa relations. 



10.00 – 10.40


10.45 – 11.00

Opening Remarks

11.00 – 12.30

Panel 1 – Global Health at a New Stage: From Decolonization to South-South Cooperation

Speakers: Dr Jonathan Kennedy (QMUL), Dr Lizhi Huang (Beijing Foreign Studies University), Dr Fortunate Machingura (ODI)

Chair: Dr Simukai Chigudu (University of Oxford)

Understanding the historical context of African public health in the last 70 years helps us to respond to global health challenges today. The continuing legacies of colonialism after the formal political dependence and the shadow of the Cold War had constrained Global South's health development and cooperation. Both Africa and China had confronted several challenges in public health which ultimately leads them to cooperate in the 1960s when first Chinese medical team was sent to Algeria. Today, China-Africa global health cooperation is expanding. Positive achievements have been seen from the anti-malaria campaign, medical personnel training, China-supported medications, facilities and hospitals, and medical cooperation with WHO and other international institutions in Africa. Likewise, the global landscape of global heath cooperation is expanding as well. Emerging economies like the BRICS countries gradually become conspicuous actors in the field. Thus, the lessons from China-Africa cooperation will contribute to further South-South cooperation today and in the future.

12.30 – 13.30


13.30 – 15.00

Panel 2 – Development, Diplomacy and Security: The Many Faces of Health in Sino-African Relations

Speakers: Saite Lu (Cambridge University), Dr Marlee Tichenor (University of Edinburgh), Dr Maddalena Procopio (University of Warwick)

Chair: Dr Harry Verhoeven (Georgetown University)

Traditionally focused on medical emergency aid, the sending of Chinese medical teams, and training of African medical students, Chinese-African health development cooperation is changing in its content as well as its delivery. In order to make this cooperation more substantial and sustained, emphasis is now put on joint global health capacity building and health system development. At the same time, China is by no means a unitary actor anymore, and it has also begun to contribute to pooled multilateral health development funds. In view of these developments, there are several questions arising which this panel will try to shed light on: Which strategies for the development of African health systems are most promising? How can African policymakers and medical practitioners benefit from Chinese health accomplishments? How can China contribute more effectively to the fight against epidemic like Ebola? In which way is Chinese-African development cooperation mutual? What are the consequences of the proliferation of Chinese sub-state actors in Chinese-African health cooperation? And what does this mean for the use of medical aid as a diplomacy tool?

15.00 – 15.30

Coffee break

15.30 – 17.00

Panel 3 –  Healthy Business Relations? Opportunities and Challenges for Sino-African Partnerships in the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Sectors

Speakers: Dr Elizabeth Hsu (Oxford University), Dr Serufusa Sekkide (Aspen Health Management), Dr Julius Mugwagwa (Open University)

Chair: Dr Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (University of Oxford)

Healthcare systems in Africa have long been a convergence points for local governments,

private corporations and a myriad of international organisations. With consumer spending in pharmaceutical and healthcare rising across the continent, these sectors have also begun to garner much interest from international investors, including Chinese investment. As the impact of private Chinese actors on African healthcare systems remains largely unexamined, this panel will seek to understand the roles and projects that Chinese investors and entrepreneurs have take on in these sectors as well as the achievements, challenges, threats and opportunities that have arisen with these new business relations in health.

17.00 – 17.30

Closing Remarks

18.30 – 21.00

Reception & Formal Dinner for Guests – St Anne’s College

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