Will China’s Belt and Road Initiative bolster Nigeria’s economic growth?

Supreme Desk
16 Nov 2023 12:09 PM GMT
Will China’s Belt and Road Initiative bolster Nigeria’s economic growth?
strategic pillars of the policy to include digital literacy, skills development, solid infrastructure, sub-infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital society, emerging technologies and indigenous economy.

Over the years, China-Nigeria relations has continued to grow, leading to expansion in higher trade figures and cultural exchanges.

According to The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), an online data visualisation and distribution platform, in September 2023, China exported 1.52 billion dollars and imported 258 million dollars from Nigeria, resulting in a positive trade balance of 1.26 billion dollars.

It says between September 2022 and September 2023 the exports of China have decreased by -378 million dollars (-19.9 per cent) from 1.9 billion dollars to 1.52 billion dollars.

Similarly, imports increased by 161 million dollars (165 per cent) from 97.1 million dollars to 258 million dollars within the period.

Nigeria-Sino strategic partnership has been considered as platform capable of advancing economic growth at various national, continental and global levels.

One instrument China has used to bolster its diplomatic network as it seeks to build a global community of shared future is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of President Xi Jinping

Between Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, diplomats, government officials and culture experts from across the world gathered in China’s capital city, Bejing for Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) summit.

With the theme: “High-quality Belt and Road cooperation: Together for Common Development and Prosperity,” the summit also marked the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

President Bola Tinubu, was invited to the Forum and was represented by Vice-President Kashim Shettima.

The vice-president held a bilateral meeting between his delegation and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Reports from the Forum shows that Shettima had witnessed the signing of MoU between the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure and three Chinese partners for new projects valued at $2bn.

There was also letters of intent between the Chinese and Nigerian partners for new projects and investments worth $4bn.

Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Works also signed MoU with China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. for the construction of the Lekki Blue Seaport contract at the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos.

The Nigeria extracted assurance from China for the funding of the Kaduna-Kano railway, among other projects.

The meeting was designed for stakeholders to take stock of progress so far made, enhance connectivity, and even, open up vistas to ensure a brighter shared future.

Those who spoke commended Nigeria-China’s diplomatic relations established in 1971 and upgraded in 2005 to strategic partnership.

They also extolled the BRF initiative to assist developing nations emerge from economic difficulties occasioned COVID-19 pandemic even as they echoed the need to deepen strategic partnership and promote meaningful growth globally.

Why this has become important those who spoke on the subject matter described both countries as strategic, in terms of their similarities, position and population sizes at regional, continental and global levels of economy.

China with an estimated population of 1, 425, 671, 352 people ranks number two in the list of countries and dependencies, equivalent to 17. 72 per cent of the world’s population.

Relatively, Nigeria with an estimated population of 223, 804, 632 people, equivalent to 2.78 per cent of the total world population ranks number six in the list of countries and dependencies.

Nigeria’s ambassador of Nigeria to China, Amb. Baba Jidda, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the Nigeria-China strategic partnership is capable of advancing Nigeria’s economic growth.

He described Nigeria-China current upgrading to comprehensive strategic partnership as a big achievement for the two countries.

The envoy said Nigeria’s participation at the BRF kick-started its strong membership under the BRI and described the initiative as an international body with more opportunities than the forum on China and Africa.

“I feel proud and elated to have accompanied the vice-president who effectively represented President Tinubu during the forum.

“I congratulate the government of Nigeria for being well represented and participating in the Forum,” he said.

Speaking during session at the forum, the vice-president expressed appreciation to China for the partnership extended to Nigeria and commended Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the people of China for the cordial relations between Nigeria and China.

During the Forum, Shettima said Nigeria, being a trading partner to most BRI countries, would continue to support China towards ensuring a sustainable digital economy.

He said BRI reflected China’s commitment to achieving economic development, specifically, for the prosperity of the people in every economy.

According to him, the world is experiencing new approaches and global dimensions to governance through digital economy and technology.

Shettima said this has played a major role towards economic recovery as replacement mechanism through trans-border trade.

“As the world emerges from the economic downturn, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a crucial need for developing economies to employ digital transformation practices.

“Especially, in the aspects of manufacturing, agriculture, retail and human capacity building, as well as medical and health care, to achieve any meaningful and sustainable development.

“Nigeria is no exception in the global shift in digital economy being the largest economy in Africa, and as the most populous country in the continent.

“We intend to remain top of the ladder through formulation and implementation of digital oriented policies,” he said.

He identified strategic pillars of the policy to include digital literacy, skills development, solid infrastructure, sub-infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital society, emerging technologies and indigenous economy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to advance global development through the BRI, saying over the past ten years, the country had stayed committed to its founding commission.

According to him, Belt and Road cooperation is based on the principle of planning together, building together, and benefiting together.

“It transforms differences between civilizations, cultures, social systems, and stages of development, and conducts new paths for exchanges with other countries.

“It establishes a new framework for international cooperation, indeed BRI represents humanity’s joint pursuit of development; through Belt and Road cooperation China is opening its door even wider to the world.

“China will work with parties involved until every stage is birthed into a new stage of high-quality development and make relentless efforts to achieve modernisation for all countries,” Xi said.

Also speaking, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, commended the forum’s contribution to global infrastructural development.

According to him, the third Belt and Road Forum recognised the fact that without infrastructure there cannot be any meaningful economic development.

“Many development support to developing countries will be starved if infrastructural needs are not met; infrastructure is the foundation for the everyday life of people in their countries.

“From drinking water to basic sanitation to electricity, connectivity, and internet access, from public services like schools and hospitals to modern grounds, construction of tunnels and hallways and railways that keep people and roads moving.

“Yet, billions of people in the developing world lack access to these basic systems, which is why this meeting on the Belt and Road is so important,” Guterres said.

Mr Li Xuda, the Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria in an interview with NAN reiterated China’s commitment to work closely with Nigeria to build a shared future for mutual benefit.

Li, also the Director of the Chinese Cultural Centre, described China mid-autumn festival as platform Chinese people celebrate family reunion, friendship and togetherness.

“You can go faster if you go alone, you can go far, if you go together, I think China and Nigeria will really go together.

“To stand hand-by-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, we will create a better future which belongs to our people and benefit our two countries,” he said.

The stakeholders all agreed that Nigeria-China strategic partnership could become viable platform for sustainable l economic growth, transforming energy systems, and proffering solutions in the 21st century.

They also alluded that such partnership will create more job opportunities for local people, in terms of economic and trade cooperation as well as promote community shared future for mankind.

It is expected that Nigeria will leverage its participation in BRI Forum to mitigate some of the infrastructure challenges face by the country this in turn will have multiplier effects on the economy.

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