President Xi Jinping has said China would offer another one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to African countries and encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10bn in Africa across the next three years.

On top of the nearly 200 million that China has already supplied to the continent, the pledge of additional vaccine doses comes as concerns intensify about the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, known as Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa.

Xi said 600 million doses would be donations, and 400 million doses would be provided through other means such as joint production by Chinese companies and relevant African countries. China will also build ten health projects in Africa and send 1,500 health experts, he said.

In a speech via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Xi said a China-Africa cross-border yuan centre would be set up to provide African financial institutions with a credit line of $10 billion without giving further details.

He said that China will provide $10 billion of trade finance to support African exports, create a zone for trade and economic cooperation and build a China-Africa industrial park.

The announcement comes amid criticism of China’s infrastructure-for-commodities deals that some experts say saddle countries with unsustainable debt. The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently reviewing a $6 billion deal with Chinese investors over concerns that it is not sufficiently beneficial to Congo.

China’s imports from Africa, one of its key sources of crude oil and minerals, will reach $300 billion in the next three years, Xi said, adding that the two sides would cooperate in health, digital innovation, trade promotion and green development.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, also speaking via video link, thanked China for its support and said African economies manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.

Discussions at the World Trade Organization on a temporary TRIPS waiver to make COVID-19 vaccines and treatments available to all needed to be finalised, he said, while criticising the travel curbs imposed on South Africa.