DAKAR, March 22 (Reuters) - China donated 400,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm to Niger on Sunday (Mar 21), the first vaccines the West African nation has received, Niger's presidency said.

Vaccinations have been slow to get started in many African countries, which are primarily relying on free vaccines from COVAX, a programme backed by the World Health Organization and other international organisations.

China has donated vaccines to several other African countries as it aims to cultivate goodwill through so-called vaccine diplomacy.

Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou received the vaccines at a ceremony in the capital Niamey that was also attended by the Chinese ambassador.

"Starting next Saturday, Mar 27, 2021, we are going to start to vaccinate the Nigerien population with this vaccine," Issoufou said.

Niger has reported 4,911 infections and 185 coronavirus-related deaths.