Thursday, June 7, 2018 10:46 pm
By Femi Adesina
Never thought I would be asked to make any speech throughout the seminar on National Governance for Presidential Advisers from Developing Countries, holding in China, until it came dropping on my laps. The organizers said I was to make a ten minutes presentation on the relationship between China and Africa, with particular emphasis on Nigeria.
I have a friend, who whenever he is caught by surprise, would say: “I looked up, looked down, scratched my head, and told myself; ‘E be like say I don chop bottle today.'” Well, I looked up, looked down, scratched my head, and put something together. And this is it, below:
CHINA WALKS THE TALK IN AFRICA, NIGERIA PARTICULARLY
It is my pleasure to make these brief comments during this Seminar on National Governance for Presidential Advisers of Developing Countries.
I am sure I speak the minds of fellow participants when I say the past one week since the seminar started has been quite illuminating, instructive, and we have been adequately equipped to make salutary impact on policies and governance in our respective countries, through quality advice to our various principals.
We have been taken through a lot on China’s governance, politics, economy, legal system, technological strides, and many others, which have all coalesced into making the country the second largest economy in the world. China has taken hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and is set to eradicate population poverty by 2020. Very admirable.
China is not content with just being prosperous, and turning round the fortunes of her vast population of 1.3 billion. It also wants to share that prosperity with the rest of the world, particularly Africa, and my country, Nigeria. It has initiated the One Belt, One Road Initiative, which is meant to share its wealth with other parts of the world, in a mutually beneficial way.
With foreign reserves at over $3 trillion, and threatening to hit $4 trillion anytime soon, China sure has a lot to share with developing countries. And the interesting thing is that it is a win-win situation, and not a neo-colonialism gambit.
The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was set up in year 2000, and under that auspices, African countries access aid and assistance in several fields, particularly in the area of infrastructural development. In 2000, trade between China and Africa was $10 billion, but by 2014, it had grown to $220 billion. As at 2009, China had signed bilateral trade agreements with 40 countries in Africa. The continent is surely gaining from the relationship.
Talking of Nigeria specifically, our government is fully engaged with China, and there is mutual respect between President Muhammadu Buhari and President Xi Jinping. At FOCAC in South Africa in 2015, the Chinese president invited his Nigerian counterpart to visit Beijing on a state visit. That came into being in April 2016, during which what is promising to be an enduring and mutually beneficial relationship was forged.
Only last week, four Nigerian Ministers- those of Power, Works and Housing, Finance, Minister of State, Transportation, in charge of Aviation, and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, were in China, to meet with officials of the Exim Bank, and many others. It is indicative of the many areas in which cooperation is ongoing between the two countries. They include rail, road, power, housing, aviation, currency swap, agriculture and food processing, building of refineries, mining, textile manufacturing, free trade zones, cultural exchanges, and many others.
China is walking its talk in Nigeria. The One Belt, One Road Initiative is not just theory. We see a practical demonstration of it. MOUs are signed, and once Nigeria pays up the counterpart funding, China swings into action. The about 4,000 MW Mambila Power Project, which has been on the drawing board for 40 years is poised to come to life, through collaboration with China. Also, from the relationship, rail projects are being built, and from next year, some of them will be operational. Nigeria will finally join the developed world in having a transportation system that will kick her economy into life.
During the 2016 state visit, there was an agreement to have a currency swap deal, that would promote commerce between the two countries. The governors of the Central Banks of the two countries formalized the process a couple of weeks back.
There are agreements in the areas of science and technology, housing, Greenfield road projects, and in the area of cultural exchange, which has seen scholarships for Nigerians increased from 100 to 700 annually, while 1,000 others are given technical training annually.
There are equally relationships in the areas of military cooperation, development of communications infrastructure, space program, water supply, and many others.
Since diplomatic relations were established in February, 1971, it has been quite robust. A 2014 BBC World Service Poll indicated that 80% of Nigerians view China’s influence positively, and the ratio must have gone higher over the years.
Nigeria subscribes to the One China policy, and President Buhari never ceases to laud China at public and private meetings. In the not too distant future, Nigeria’s deficit in infrastructure, despite being a blessed country, would surely have been reversed, through collaboration with China.
China and Africa, indeed, Nigeria, are in far flung areas of the earth, and may never meet geographically. But the virtual embrace given to the continent has bridged the wide divide, and Nigeria is happy that there is now only one belt, and just one road.
In concluding, let me thank the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, for organizing this very important seminar. It has been enriching.
Thank you very much.
• Speech by Mr Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Media and Publicity, at Seminar on National Governance for Presidential Advisers of Developing Countries, June 7, 2018, Chengdu, China.