We spoke with Mr. Liu Chang’an, the General Manager of the China Town business arena, Lagos during a facility tour of the arena when he took us round and exposed his plans for a turnaround of the giant shopping centre he plans to turn also into a cultural arena.
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 person relationship between China and Nigeria and we should not allow it go down.
The China Town has been here since 2001 and it is old enough in the past 18 years to serve as symbol of the culture and economic exchange between us. From our historic records, the town came just a year after the creation of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, FOCAC. Now that the FOCAC is getting stronger and the Chinese and Nigerians knowing themselves better with deeper friendships, it is not wise to allow the China Town get into decline.’
These were the remarks of the General Manager of the China Town, Lagos, Mr. Liu Chang’an, better known in Nigeria as Chief Ronnie Liu. Yes, Liu is a titled chief of Abeokuta since 2007 and in his close to 20 years sojourn in Nigeria, the chairman of the Association of Chinese Investors in Nigeria and the chief executive officer of HuaFei Group of Companies.
He hosted a team of journalists on facility inspection of the China Town that is undergoing serious rebranding , and promised that in the next half a year to come, any visitor to the business arena would hardly believe the changes that would have taken place.
He said the centre would not just be a business place, but a cultural centre with a library for scholars to visit and read and learn about Chinese ways of life and also give the Chinese there the Nigerian way of life.
Soon, the signs announcing China Town to someone driving through the Oworonsoki-Ojota highway would be too conspicuous to miss.
Among his plans for the Town will be the China Centre for business and other consultation, the Africa China Media and research/consultancy office, a government agencis service office that would include a bank, customs, immigration, business registration, police and other outlets which would make it easy for the new Chinese intending investors arriving Nigeria to walk into and get all the inquiry and business information at a spot.
‘That way, the hurdles a Chinese new in Nigeria and with intention to invest faces would be less and minimal.
With his projection, the China Town will not just do more business but with act also like a mini free trade zone and facilitator of foreign direct investment between China and Nigeria.
Better image for Chinese products
‘Most of the things we target to do are 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. China makes 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. 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 the China Town and also create better avenue for the Nigerian products of good quality, 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.
Diverse passion for deeper China Nigeria friendship
Chief Liu took higher his zest to foster a better China Nigeria relationship when he last year made the founding of the Institute of Nigeria China Development Studies at the University of Lagos possible.
Also, the investors association made of very credible Chinese businesspersons in Nigeria last year July started awarding scholarships to students of the Unilag that graduate from the Confucius Institute of Chinese Language and Culture and about 60 of such graduates in Chinese language benefitted while most of them are studying in China right now.
Deploying deep experience
In Liu’s almost nearly 20 years in Nigeria, he has with him extensive experiences in overseas trade, marketing and investment. That experience is what he deploys to turn around the China Town of 20,000 square meters with 300 shops and 200 apartment units. Based on the commercial network in Lagos, China Town has always been the gathering center of Chinese people and an independent trade market recognized by the local government.
Liu was entrusted as the general manager of China Town early this year and has committed to develop China Town into an exhibition center for well-known and quality products and a hub for trade, investment, recreation, culture activities and food.
Keyed into the BRI
In tandem with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China Town is taking the lead in building the new era of comprehensive cooperation between China and Nigeria.
In the near future, China Town will develop into a wholesale mall focusing on the middle and high-end market, selling and distributing hardware, bathroom wares, building materials, small and medium-sized equipment and auto parts that import 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. What China Town provides 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.