Josphyn Uba, Lagos
China Town, a Chinese dominated business arena in Oworonsoki-Ojota area of Lagos is set to receive a conspicuous facelift that would spur economic development in Lagos State. The giant shopping centre will no longer be for only economic activities, it will also to facilitate a robust bilateral relationship between Nigerians and the Chinese people.
Established in 2001 with the vision of facilitating foreign direct investment between China and Nigeria, China Town is the commercial home of everything Chinese. It is recognized by the local government as an independent trade market. With 300 shops and 200 apartment units, the market is patronized by Chinese and Nigerians alike for China made products.
In China Town, a buyer is sure to get the best of Chinese clothes, electronics, fashions accessories, food and the like. With the new development, China Town will not just do more business, but would deepen the China-Nigeria friendship as well as minimize the hurdles new Chinese investors in Nigeria are likely to face.
Speaking to journalists recently, during a facility tour of the arena, Mr. Liu Chang’an, the General Manager of China Town, spoke of his vision to turn the place into a vibrant economic hub for quality Chinese products. He believes that having been in existence in the last 18 years, China Town should serve as a symbol of cultural and economic exchange between Nigeria and China.
Giving a brief history of the business arena, he noted that the town came into existence a year after the creation of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). With FOCAC getting stronger and the Chinese and Nigerians knowing to enjoy a deeper friendships, he added it was not wise to allow China Town get into decline.
“I have a dream to turn things around for the better in the China Town because the centre has become a landmark not just in the city but in the cultural, economic and personal relationship between China and Nigeria, and we should not allow it go down.
“Soon, the signs announcing China Town to someone driving through the Oworonsoki-Ojota highway would be too conspicuous to miss,” he explained.
He said that China Town currently undergoing a serious rebranding and that in the next few months, it would take a complete different look giving the structural transformation currently going on. He further said that the centre would not just be a business place, but a cultural centre with a library for scholars serving people who want to learn about the Chinese way of life as well as giving the Chinese in Nigeria, the Nigerian way of life.
Lui, who is also the founder of the Institute of Nigeria China Development Studies at the University of Lagos, expressed his commitment to building trade and economic ties with Nigeria by bringing and selling genuine Chinese products in China Town. “We are really concerned with this fake product as that was the major reason why businesses in China Town have declined in recent time.” Continuing, he said: “We are repositioning the China Town to ensure that only genuine products are supplied and sold. We are committed to developing China Town into an exhibition centre for well-known and quality products and a hub for trade, investment, recreation, culture activities and food.
He noted that corresponding to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China Town is taking the lead in building the new era of comprehensive cooperation between China and Nigeria. “Through cooperation with Nigeria state governments, we will be able to provide consulting services including finance, taxation, immigration, insurance, etc, to Chinese in Nigeria and also to Nigerians for everything which is related to China.” He further noted: “As you can see from this tour, a lot of innovation is going on and I can assure you that in no longer time, China Town will develop into a wholesale mall focusing on middle and high-end market selling and distributing hardware, bathroom ware, building materials, small and medium-sized equipment and auto parts that imports from China. With the support of our political connections and business resources here in Nigeria, China Town will form and train competent sales teams to develop distribution networks in major cities in Nigeria, promptly responding to the demand of clients.”
Commenting on revamping, culture, recreation and food centre, Liu said: “The Chinese schools and libraries in the China Town have been inaugurated and are accepting enrolees. We are working closely with the Confucius Institute at University of Lagos and use their teaching advantages to spread Chinese culture and strengthen relationship between the two countries. There are also hotels, supermarkets and restaurants here. We are determined to turn the China Town into a commercial centre with Chinese characteristics, at the same time covering wholesale markets, leisure, shopping and dining. All brands entering the mall must pass our screening to ensure product quality.”
“China makes the best quality products for the global market and is the highest exporter of consumer goods in the world. Our government and private investors are becoming more and more interested in Nigeria and we want to be part of that project by giving the Nigerian consumer the quality of products we would all be proud of.
Entrusted as the general manager of China Town early this year, Liu assured that he is committed to achieving his dream for China Town. In his words, “my plan is to totally change that notion in the market that Chinese products are of inferior quality. So, as we raise the quality of the products imported into China Town and also create an avenue for the Nigerian products of good quality.”
According to Mr. Lui, “we make stronger our bonds and through that make it possible for more Chinese investors to get the right persuasion to manufacture in Nigeria in the future and not just exporting products into the country.
“What China Town provides to its clients is not only shop fronts and showroom windows but also access to share local resources of HUAFEI Mall, like our sales team, foreign trade experience, distribution channels and publicity network,” he noted.
Mr Lui also disclosed that the management of China Town in Lagos has begun negotiations with some state governments on ways to attract direct investment as part of measures to attract huge investment by Chinese investors into the country and boost economic ties.
“We have started negotiations with Osun State government to see how to attract Chinese investors into the state to establish factories there. This will help to eliminate sub-standard products being imported into the country and at the same time, help create employment.
“Most of the things we target to do is creating the right image and bond between the Chinese businessman in Lagos, Nigeria and entire Africa. Our objective is to make sure that we work with the best brands and manufacturers in China and bring their products here and even convince them to open up business outlets in Nigeria for manufacturing.”
Liu, who has been in Nigeria for almost 20 years, is the chairman of the Association of Chinese Investors in Nigeria and the Chief Executive Officer of HuaFei Group of Companies. He expressed a strong desire to build a better China-Nigeria relationship when he sets up the Institute of Nigeria China Development Studies at the University of Lagos.