President Muhammadu returned to the country after about a week of sojourn in China where he joined African African leaders and other international actors to participate in the 2018 Forum On China Africa, Cooperation, (FOCAC), which held September 3 – 4 2018, in Bejing, China. This years summit held with the theme- “China and Africa: Towards an Even stronger Community with a shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation”.
For many reasons, FOCAC, which holds annually has become a significant event on the diplomatic calendar of many African countries as the Forum is gradually emerging a reliable platform for advancing the progress of the African continent.
Since its inception in 2000, the Chinese government makes available huge finances annually to support development on the African continent. Last year, President Zi Jinping approved $60billion for infrastructural development in Africa. ?????
Beside providing cheap and direct development funding, FOAC provides a window for direct foreign investment and enhanced trade between China and Africa. In this light therefore, any African nation-state which treats the Forum with levity does so at the expense of her national development.
Expectedly, Nigeria’s delegation to FOCAC 2018 went with high hopes. Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Zhou Pingjian was upbeat about its prospects as he said before his return to Beijing for the conference that it would create new opportunities to grow China-Nigerian strategic partnership.
How much of these expectations were met as the curtain fell on the Forum September 6? Undoubtedly, some gains were made by the Nigerian delegation.
The most remarkable gain was perhaps the signing of an agreement
on the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II (NICTIB II) with China.
The agreement was between Galaxy Backbone Limited and Huawei Technologies Limited (HUAWEI) at the cost of $328m provided by the Chinese EXIM Bank.
Another significant step at the Summit was the signing of the MOU on “One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR)” which the Chinee leader had proposed. The initiative since 2013 is to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, with a view to integrating the development strategies of partnering countries.
The Nigerian delegation also reportedly inked a few MOUs on investment issues arranged by the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).
In retrospect could Nigeria be said to have maximized her participation at the Summit? The responses could be varied depending on one’s standpoint and expectations.
China-Nigeria relations have largely centred around economic cooperation. In recent times however, there has been movement towards military and strategic cooperation given Nigeria’s security challenges especially the Boko Haram insurgency in parts of the country.
China has been active in the restoration of the nation’s railway system, the oil industry and industrial development. China has also been involved in strengthening cultural relations between both countries.
But given the strategic position of Nigeria as Africa’s largest economy, Sino-Nigeria relations should a model for other African countries both at the bilateral level and the continental level within the context of FOCAC. To that extent therefore, a lot still needs to be done for Nigeria to take real advantage of her relationship with China.
On the Chinese side, the country needs to pay more attention to Nigeria’s national governance performance in all sectors as a basis for continued support within the context of her foreign policy principles of peace and security.
Nigeria’s engagement with China on the economic level needs to taken more seriously with the creation of special Chinese economic zones. The presence of “Chinese Towns” in Lagos and Kano indicate an urgent craving for specialized zones for Chinese industrialists wishing to produce in Nigeria for the Nigerian market.
The special economic zones should be jointly negotiated such that activities will be selected sectors in line with Nigeria’s national economic development goals. The zones should have local participation with general tax incentives to ensure smooth take-off and attainment of set goals.
Such zones have great potentials to not only provide jobs but also ensure transfer of technology and expertise to Nigeria.
Fortunately, the Chinese diplomatic mission in Nigeria has in the last three years been promoting the idea of “Made in Nigeria by China”, an initiative which encourages Chinese industrialists to set up shop in Nigeria rather than export processed goods to the country. The Nigerian authorities will do well by mainstreaming this initiative in the overall Architecture of Sino-Nigerian economic relations.
This initiative will surely compliment the currency swap agreement between the two countries which took off about three months ago. It is hoped that the ease of doing business between Nigeria and China which the currency swap agreement seeks to enthrone will highly beneficial to “Made in Nigeria by China” initiative.
These initiatives are certainly consistent with the “Ten Cooperation Plans” adopted at the 2015 Johannesburg Summit as well as the “Beijing Declaration and the Action Plan for the development of China-Africa Cooperation” adopted at the recently concluded summit.
Since FOCAC is conceived to be an annual event, Nigeria needs to start preparation for the next Summit almost immediately. One of the ways to prepare would be to ensure the take-off of all agreements and MOUs signed in the seventh Summit which ended recently.