China will deepen joint medical research with Africa, particularly in training African medical scientists.
Ren Minghui, director-general of the Department for International Cooperation within the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, said research and development is one priority area of collaboration being explored.
"China can support Africa in technical areas of research such as having scientists train in institutions such as the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most important institutes in China for research in preventive diseases," he told SciDev.Net at the Fourth International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation in Botswana, which ended 7 May 2013.
Minghui said that joint research programmes between universities and medical schools will benefit both China and Africa, but especially the latter.
"We are looking forward to helping to build capacity for research in Africa in this cooperation," he said. "There are several proposals in different fields of health research that are being looked into."
He said China and its government also encourages technology transfer with Africa. The problem, Minghui said, is that the government does not own the technology, so it can only encourage the research institutes and businesses that do own it, to give Africa access to this knowledge.
It was for that reason, he explained, that the government brought pharmaceutical industry representatives to the meeting in Botswana to allow them to interact and explore potential opportunities for technology access and transfer with their African counterparts.
According to Minghui, traditional medicine is another area in which China will collaborate with Africa, with Chinese experts surveying African countries to find herbs that could be used to treat disease.
Currently, he said, there is a collaboration between China and Tanzania in which some Tanzanian herbs are being studied for their efficacy in treating HIV/AIDS.
"Several African health ministers have made proposals to the Chinese government to help them develop their traditional medicine," he said.
Minghui said that, whereas there has been growing criticism of China's interest in Africa — with some critics arguing that it is driven solely by commercial interest, for example, in African natural resources — the collaboration is based on mutual interest with benefits for both parties.
This Botswana roundtable organised by the Institute for Global Health and the China Institute of International Studies, is the fourth in a series began in 2009 as part of a China-led initiative to evaluate and improve its foreign assistance.