It is cheering news that Nigeria signed 13 deals worth $10bn with China at the recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit held in Beijing, China. There are strong indications that the Nigerian government will sign more deals with the Chinese government in the days ahead. Leaders and delegations from 52 African countries, including Nigeria, attended the tri-annual summit. FOCAC meetings are alternated between Africa and China every three years.
At the Beijing summit held with the theme: “China and Africa: Towards an Even Stronger Community with Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation,” members agreed to commit themselves to the Belt and Road Initiative of the Chinese government which seeks “to promote collectively, among one another, extensive consultation, cooperation and ensure shared gains.”
Under the new China policy, China and Africa will work in concert in world bodies such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and G77+China. They will work together in the pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2063 of the African Union as well as support individual nation’s development plans. One of the laudable aspects of the new Afro-Sino relations is Chinese commitment to non- interference in the internal affairs of members and its pledge to support development efforts without attaching political strings. We hope the Chinese authorities will be faithful to these commitments. We say this because most of the criticisms that have trailed the Chinese new interest in Africa point at domination of the continent by the Chinese or another wave of colonization.
All the same, it is good that the Chinese authorities have assured of non-interference in the internal affairs of members. President Muhammadu Buhari’s powerful delegation at the summit included senators, state governors, and the Ministers of Finance, Transportation, Power, Works and Housing, Budget and National Planning, Petroleum and Industry, Trade and Investment, and Minister of State for Aviation.
The highlights of the deals signed with China included the $328m financing agreement for the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and Wang Xiaota, the Director General, China International Development Cooperation Agency; President Xi Jinping’s promise to build the country’s largest hydroelectric power plant in Mambila; the building of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline at $2.8bn; the $2bn textile manufacturing industries to be located in Katsina, Kano, Abia and Lagos; and the $1.5bn energy and organic fertilizer that will cover Abuja, Niger, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Kano and generate: 300MW of electricity, 500,000 tonnes of organic fertilizer, 60,000,000 litres of oil from pyrolysis, create 10,000 jobs, 400 garbage collection trucks, various types of city sanitation equipment and deployment of one million waste bins.
The rest were the $400m investments across six states for the production of; 90 litres of ethanol, 64 MW of power, 72 tonnes of sugar per annum, 10,000 tonnes of animal farm per annum and 5,500 direct employment; 10 biofuel complexes nationwide and the training of 1,000 Nigerian government officials to acquire basic Information and Communication Technology (ICT) knowledge.
We, therefore, commend President Buhari for attracting the huge deals expected to boost the nation’s infrastructure and industrialisation. There is no doubt that President Buhari has further consolidated the Nigeria/China cooperation with the country’s membership of FOCAC, Nigeria-China bilateral engagement and Nigerian Government-Chinese business partnerships.
Besides, Nigeria has reportedly benefitted from its partnership with China the execution of over $5bn worth of infrastructural projects across the country since the inception of Buhari administration. The Federal Government must ensure that these deals are faithfully implemented by all the parties involved. In all these deals and future ones to be signed, the nation’s interest must override any other.
Our relations with the Chinese must be on equal terms as well as a win-win situation for all the parties. While it is good to be part of the Chinese One Belt, One Road Initiative, we must ensure that the belt and the road actually pass through our territory in such a way that we should benefit maximally. The government should also resist the temptation to make Nigeria a dumping ground for all manner of Chinese products. The government’s main focus should be how to industrialise the country. We should aim at manufacturing some of the goods we need. The excessive reliance on imported goods is stifling the economy and slowing our pace to industrialisation. In spite of criticisms, the Afro-Sino relations should be deepened and sustained.