By Charles Onunaiju
2018 is the third year since the historic 2nd Summit of the heads of state and government of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015. At the summit, Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping, outlined ten cooperation plans which would essentially drive the China-Africa cooperation in the three-year period before the next FOCAC ministerial meeting holding this year. Identifying infrastructure, industrialisation and agricultural modernisation among other ten areas as the main focus of China’s support for Africa in the three-year period, President Xi Jinping provided a funding support of 60 billion US dollars. Since that historic summit, most of the funding has been disbursed and key infrastructure projects, industrial parks and free trade zones, with quantum leap in agricultural modernisation, have been accomplished in different parts of Africa. However, the good news is that the steady momentum of the Sino-Africa cooperation will experience a quantum leap as China positions more strategically as a major power to assume more responsibilities on the global scene.
With the successful convocation and conclusion of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October, China’s national development has transited to a new era, with implications for China’s broad and deeper involvement in world affairs and China-Africa cooperation gaining more momentum.
Summing the experience of China’s national development and the wider global outlook since the 18th national congress of the party in 2012, a resolution of the 19th national congress of the party on the report of the 18th Central Committee, held that “on the basis of an analysis of the developments in the International and domestic environments and a review of the party’s work and the historic change over the past five years, the congress forms the major political judgment that socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era.” The congress further elaborates on the party’s historic mission in the new era and establishes the historical position of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”
These conclusions of the epochal 19th national congress of the CPC was not lightly arrived at and not the largely vacuous rhetoric of any political gathering. They derived from a thorough and scientific interrogation of China’s and international realities at a key historic juncture and the outcome is the strategic framework and roadmap that would guide the work and activities of the government and party in the next five years. The discerning feature of China’s global engagement would certainly be guided by her dutiful commitment to build a community with a shared future for mankind. The practical framework of China’s bold vision to build a community with shared future for mankind has already been outlined in the Belt and Road strategy of international cooperation, which has entered the crucial stage of execution and implementation.
Africa and Nigeria in particular are strategically placed for integration into the thorough-going process of global connectivity through overland, maritime and digital infrastructure, which are the defining and dynamic paradigm of the Belt and Road international cooperation. The Belt and Road international cooperation is underpinned by real actions and concrete projects that have produced over 270 specific results, under 76 broad categories across five key areas.
According to Chinese foreign minister, Mr. Wang Yi, “the Belt and Road has become the most popular international public good in today’s world. Its success lies in the fact that by focus on the dual deficits in development and governance and the dual challenges of anemic global cooperation and lack of drive in global cooperation, the Belt and Road initiative has responded to the shared desire for accelerated development, and sought to pool the economic factors and developmental resources from wider areas following an approach of pursuing shared benefits through consultation and collaboration.”
Speaking at a symposium on international developments and China’s diplomacy in 2017, in Beijing, last December, Foreign minister Wang Yi said that “Another significant event on China’s diplomatic agenda for 2018, will be hosting the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.”
According to him, the Forum will discuss plans for future development with our African brothers and sisters and roll out new cooperation measures and explore new growth areas, to lift our cooperation to a new level. In particular, to meet the aspirations of African countries, we will work to further synergise the Belt and Road Initiative with Agenda 2063, making the Belt and Road cooperation a new, strong driver for China-Africa all-dimensional cooperation.”
The dynamism of the Belt and Road international cooperation initiative, when mainstreamed to the existing mechanism of China-Africa cooperation, especially the multilateral framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), would produce a profound insight to the new era of China-Africa relation which can be glimpsed with considerable degree of sure-footedness. The decisive impact of the ten cooperation plans outlined by President Xi Jinping in 2015 at the second summit of FOCAC has transformed the state of infrastructure in Africa in the past three years and 2018, marking the start of new cooperation arrangements to be blended to the momentum of the Belt and Road international cooperation strategy, would certainly turn into a major game-changer in addressing Africa’s infrastructure’s deficits.
At his new year address to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari outlined a framework of strategic infrastructure networks to aid Nigeria’s economic recovery and drive the process of sustainable and inclusive economic development. The road and rail networks that he identified across the country, including key power infrastructure, would in his own words, “spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment.”
Among the key power infrastructure projects, he mentioned the “landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric power project, which has been on the drawing board for 40 years but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050 MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture company with a financing commitment from the government of China, with completion targeted for 2023.”
Identifying key and strategic infrastructure, the decisive instrument to put Nigeria’s economy on the path of sustainable development is very important and to identify and locate the critical international support for it is even more urgent and compelling. The Belt and Road international cooperation strategy initiated by China is well placed to support the challenge of filling Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit. The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingian, has at several fora and platforms reiterated the commitment of his country to supporting Nigeria in building the requisite capacity for sustainable and inclusive development.
Nigeria should properly hedge its belt to the global public good of the Belt and Road process, and integrate it to her national agenda to overcome her infrastructure deficit, using its open, consultative and collaborative mechanisms to advance her economic reconfiguration and stable growth.
Onunaiju is director, Centre for China Studies, Utako, Abuja.