By IKENNA EMEWU
After 20 years of effective cooperation in so many areas since the formation of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), there is the need to take stock on how far China and Africa have come to know each, facilitate each other’s growth and emancipation and a more peaceful world.
In this discussion, the Consul General of the Chinese Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, Mr. Chu Maoming had an in-depth discussion with us on the gains so far and the targeted gains for stronger ties for tomorrow.
The explanations from a man whom Nigeria is not the first African country of his diplomatic service clarifies false notions about China and Africa relationship and also enlightens on what needs to be achieved, especially eroding the fallacies, sentiments and fabrications to get to the facts.
This is 20 years of higher and larger cooperation between China Africa that touches on many aspects, can you as a very senior diplomatic officers who has worked in some countries of Africa give us an insight on the achievements of the FOCAC in the past years.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum. Over the past 20 years, the Forum has become an important platform for collective dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa, maintaining a leading position in international cooperation with Africa.
After years of accumulation, the results of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation have spread all over Africa. In terms of infrastructure, China has built more than 6,000 kilometers of railways and roads in Africa, as well as nearly 20 ports and more than 80 large power plants. It has promoted the process of industrialization in Africa and enhanced Africa’s ability for independent development.
In the field of people’s livelihood, China has so far assisted in the construction of more than 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools. In the past five years, China has trained more than 200,000 talents of all kinds in Africa, who are distributed in various industries in Africa. China has made important contributions to promoting the vital interests and welfare of the African people.
In terms of trade and investment, the volume of trade between China and Africa exceeded US$200 billion in 2019, and China has become Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row. China’s stock of indirect investment has reached US$110 billion, and more than 3,700 Chinese enterprises have invested and started businesses in various parts of Africa, providing a strong driving force for sustained economic growth in Africa. Driven by China-Africa cooperation, other foreign countries have also increased their attention to Africa, bringing more opportunities for Africa’s development.
We would want to know about trade particularly, how has the trade between China and Nigeria improved over these years, have they been in favour of China alone because of her high economic standing against a little Nigeria.
At present, China is a major driving force, which has contributed an average of more than 30 percent to world economic growth. The stable and progressive performance of China’s economy also promoted the economic and trade cooperation between China and Nigeria.
In 2019, the bilateral trade volume between China and Nigeria increased by 26.3% year-on-year. Nigeria continues to maintain China’s third largest trading partner in Africa, the largest engineering contracting market and an important investment destination. China-Nigeria bilateral economic and trade relations have sustained vigorous development with larger cooperation scale, broader fields and more diversified patterns.
In Nigeria, Chinese commodities of clothes, small household appliances and small items of daily use are very popular among local consumers. In addition, Nigeria’s exports of petroleum, natural gas and farm produces to China have provided important production and livelihood materials for Chinese people.
Obviously, both China and Nigeria are big developing countries, having their own advantages in resources, funds, human capital and market, and they are highly complementary to each other, with huge potential for cooperation and broad development space.
In the future, we will positively implement the consensus reached by the two countries’ leaders, to further tap cooperation potentials, enrich cooperation contents, innovate cooperation patterns, and push forward bilateral economic and trade cooperation in larger scales, broader fields and higher levels.
First, both China and Nigeria boast a huge market, so there is a tremendous potential for bilateral trade. China will continue to encourage its businesses to export mechanical and electrical products as well as consumer goods with high quality and at proper prices to Nigeria, and import more advantageous Nigerian products so as to optimize bilateral trade structure.
Second, Nigeria’s huge consumer market and demographic dividend are highly complementary to China’s processing industry. The two parties could rely on economic and trade cooperation zones to strengthen cooperation on textile, apparel and household appliances, gradually expanding scales and striving for industrial clusters to enhance their cooperation. China will encourage more enterprises with capability to increase their investment in manufacturing, technological transfer and personnel training, and create more jobs there.
Third, the two countries can further extend their industrial chains to develop processing cooperation on some tropical economic crops like cassava, palm oil and rubber as well as fishery products, so as to make use of Nigeria’s strong advantages in market radiation, build regional logistics channels for the trade of farm produces, and promote sustainable development of related industries.
Do you know how many Chinese companies or Nigerian companies owned by the Chinese that operate in Nigeria presently?
According to a report titled: Guide for Countries and Regions on Overseas Investment and Cooperation of the 2019 (Nigeria), issued by the Ministry of Commerce of China, towards the end of 2018, there were more than 120 large Chinese enterprises registered in the Economic and Trade Office of the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.
In recent years, more and more Chinese companies are investing in Nigeria.
China is the most populous nation in the world while Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. As two major fast-growing economies in the world, China and Nigeria provide opportunities for each other. With such huge markets and rich human resources, we firmly believe the economic and trade cooperation between our two countries will be deepened.
And what is the estimated volume of their investment in Nigeria. Do you think they have been of any economic assistance to the growth of Nigeria economy or are they just making their profit and taking them back home？
Nigeria is the most populous country and the largest economy in Africa. From 2009 to now, Nigeria has always been China’s largest project contracting market, second largest export market, third largest trading partner and major investment destination in Africa.
The larger the scale of China-Nigeria economic cooperation, the greater the benefit it will bring to the two countries.
Nigeria needs manufacturing and industrial development, whereas China has fairly strong capabilities in financing and cost-effective spare production capacity in these fields. Cooperation based on such complementarity and mutual benefit will give an even stronger boost to China and Nigeria’s respective development.
In fact, the extra liquidity provided by Chinese has revitalized many Nigeria companies and projects. Chinese investment is also gathering more jobs for Nigerian people. More importantly, the growth of Chinese investment is contributing to the diversification of Nigeria’s production system, which is conducive to the long-term and sustainable growth of the Nigerian economy.
It is China’s sincere hope to share its experience with Nigeria, and we are willing to provide capital, technology and personnel in support of Nigeria’s sustainable development. China will firmly support the localization of Chinese companies in Nigeria and promote the initiative of “Made in Nigeria with China”to achieve Nigeria’s high-quality development.
In the Covid-19 pandemic the world is facing, has there been any cooperation or intervention by any Chinese companies, government agencies etc in Nigeria to assist the country through the trying time?
The Covid-19 is currently raging all over the world, and lives are being lost every day. The situation in Nigeria and Africa remains grave as well. Having forged the idea that the world is a global community of shared future, and believing that it must act as a responsible member, China has fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.
China has been carrying out exchanges and cooperation with Nigeria. It has strengthened high-level communication, shared information, and done all it can to provide assistance, contributing ingenuity and strength to the fight against the coronavirus.
President Xi Jinping has personally promoted international cooperation with Nigeria. On May 18, he addressed the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly, calling for a joint effort on the part of all countries to overcome the virus and build a global community of health for all. Six proposals and five methods were put forward. They could be found in my article “Chinese President Calls for Greater Support for Africa to Fight Covid-19.” On June 17, he gave a keynote speech at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19. President Muhammadu Buhari along with Presidents of other African countries attended the meeting. The Summit issued a joint statement which reflects the common position of China and Africa on a series of major issues, and reached extensive consensus on supporting Africa’s COVID-19 response and strengthening China-Africa and international cooperation against the virus.
China has shared information and experience with Nigeria without any reservation. China wasted no time in releasing information such as the whole coronavirus genome sequence and the specific primers and probes for detecting the coronavirus to the WHO and other relevant countries and regional organizations, and has kept them informed with regular updates.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu was invited by the WHO as one of 10 global health leaders to visit China and understudy their response approach from February 16 to 24. “Since his return, the NCDC has been implementing numerous strategies and programs in Nigeria to ensure that the adverse impact of this virus on our country is minimized,” Said President Muhammad Buhari in his public speech on March 29.
The National Health Commission of China has worked out diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control solutions, had them translated into three languages, and shared them with over 180 countries including Nigeria. China has held video conferences with health experts from over 170 countries to share our proven protocols of diagnosis, treatment and control. Nigerian Health Minister Dr. Osagie Ehanire has consecutively attended all four video conferences on technical exchange on Covid-19 between China and Africa.
We have set up the online COVID-19 knowledge center (http://covid-19.chinadaily.com.cn/) that is open to all. On June 7, 2020, the State Council Information Office of China published a white paper titled “Fighting Covid-19: China in Action”. The 37,000-word document records the Chinese people’s battle against the virus, shares China’s experience in curbing the virus and clarifies China’s stance in fighting the virus.
Even while still under the tremendous pressure of coronavirus control, China has provided humanitarian assistance to Nigeria as she can. As of the end of July, 3 batches of governmental medical supplies have been donated to the Nigerian government. China’s provincial and city governments are rushing to help their sister states and cities in Nigeria too. With the assistance of the Consulate General of China in Lagos, the Chinese Community and Chinese companies in Nigeria have donated 5 batches of medical supplies as well as cash to the local communities. We are also proud to witness that more and more Chinese communities in Nigeria are also showing their support voluntarily with generous financial and material donations to their local hospitals and neighborhoods.
China fully supports African countries’ efforts against COVID-19, and pledges to continue assisting Africa with supplies and medical experts and accelerate the construction of African CDC. China promises that once the COVID-19 vaccine is completed and put into use, African countries will be the first in line to benefit from it. China is willing to work together with the international community to step up support for African countries, particularly those that are hardest hit by the coronavirus and are under heavy financial stress, by such means as further extending the period of debt suspension, to help them tide over the current difficulty.
There is the common notion that the Chinese investors only come to take and go home, they prefer to come with workers from their country and leave the host countries with no benefits. How true is it, especially about the Chinese investors in Nigeria and some other African countries you served earlier?
I have noticed that with the rapid development of China-Africa economic cooperation and trade, there have also been more and more discussions in international community. Many of the views expressed are objective and positive, but some are biased. Let me share with you what I think about this issue.
First, Chinese investment to Africa always aims at livelihood and capacity building. For decades China has been helping Africa by creating more jobs and offering aid in many livelihood-related areas.
The CNN website published a report entitled “Employed by China” in 2018. This article mentioned that a McKinsey report last year, which surveyed more than 1,000 Chinese companies in eight African countries, found that on average 89% of their employees were Africans. Several million African jobs have been created by China on the continent. Nearly two-thirds of Chinese companies have provided skills training, while half offered apprenticeships, and a third had introduced a new technology for the local community. Voices from some Western countries may claim that “Chinese investors do not bring significant job creation locally”. A senior government official of Ethiopia answered during his interview “There’s always rivalry when a great power diminishes. But we as the Africans are the ones to say if we are benefiting from China. We don’t need a witness.”
Second, Chinese investors pay high attention to their long-run development in Africa. The history of Chinese investors in Nigeria goes back to more than 50 years ago, even earlier than the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries. I heard more than once that for Chinese investors in Nigeria, this country is their second home. Some of them have earned the title of Chief from the local communities, which proved their contributions to the friendship between China and Nigeria.
Last year I was invited to the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, one of the outcomes of the commercial partnership between Chinese investors and Nigeria, and met with Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, the special representative of Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and minister of industry, trade and investment. During his speech, he said the zone generates an average output value of over US$234 million per annum and has exceeded US$2 billion in total investment with over 6,000 people from the local community directly employed.
These two examples are just a tiny drop of water in the vast ocean of China-Nigeria cooperation, and there are far more such impressive cases that could be found everywhere.
Third, the Chinese investors always actively assume their social responsibilities. Since Nigeria has established clear rules on worker’s rights, human rights and environmental standards for business sector, both for the purposes of surviving in the market and in the interests of keeping a good overseas image, it is unlikely that Chinese companies would ignore these social responsibilities.
During the Covid-19 in recent months, some Chinese factories and shops in Nigeria were visited by the local authorities. The local employees who were inquired all voluntarily expressed that their Chinese employers paid remuneration to them on time and attached great importance to their health. I’m very proud of the Chinese community’s significant contributions to the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Nigeria during the special time.
I wish to take this opportunity to call upon the Chinese community to continue to observe the laws of the land, respect local culture, treat and pay local employees fairly and decently, and actively undertake corporate responsibilities.
At the same time, I hope that their legitimate rights and interests can also be duly protected. We must remember that any relationship that benefits one side only is neither fair nor sustainable.
Recently, an issue arose about the planned US$500m loan by Nigeria from Chinese Exim Bank for Nigeria’s railway development. As the National Assembly started looking into the terms, there have been rumours that China is invariably taking over Nigeria with loan conditions it can never get out of. Can you explain this issue for better understanding of the people, or are they right to conclude that China is enslaving Nigeria with loan trap that erodes Nigerian’s sovereignty?
As a good partner, good friend and good brother to Nigeria, China is committed to enhancing investment and financial cooperation with Nigeria based on their needs to help them improve infrastructure and extradite socioeconomic development. Such cooperation has delivered tangible benefits to Nigeria and her people.
In the process, China always gives full consideration to debt sustainability and seeks mutually-acceptable proposals through equal and friendly consultations. That is the fundamental reason behind the enormous popularity of China-Nigeria cooperation in Nigeria. Actions speak louder than words. People can tell right from wrong. When it comes to the effects of China-Nigeria cooperation, Nigerian people are in the best position to tell.
In recent years, with loans from the Chinese government, the Abuja Metro Line opened to traffic, the construction of the first phase of Keffi Highway began, and the Port-Harcourt and the new Abuja airport terminal were completed. Key projects such as the Lagos-Ibadan railway, Zengeru Hydropower Station and the Lekki Deep Water Port are also progressing steadily as planned. I would want us to check the records and confirm that with Chinese firms and contractors, abandoning projects uncompleted is alien and unheard of.
There are countless success stories in the numerous projects jointly developed by China and Nigeria. It is only natural that some problems might arise in their market operation. China stands ready to step up dialogue and friendly consultation with Nigeria on the basis of respect. We believe proper solutions to relevant issues will be found.
But definitely, China completely respects Nigeria’s sovereignty and will never interfere with her internal affairs. China would also never give Nigeria loan conditions that tamper with her sovereignty. As patriotic people, we also value the patriotism of Nigerians for Nigeria and would always work to preserve that passion for mutual benefits.
Africans hear of so many loans from China to countries in Africa, is it right to say the cooperation between China and African countries is just about loans to the benefit of China and leaving Africa stranded and worse off?
China has always consistently adhered to China-Africa cooperation, adhered to the correct concept of justice and benefit, and is committed to cooperation and common development. We see African countries as our good brothers that have shared future with us. Our cooperation with Africa follows the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith and of pursuing the greater good and shared interests.
We respect African people’s will and meet their needs. We never interfere in their internal affairs, impose our will on them, attach political strings or seek political gains. That is the fundamental reason why China-Africa cooperation is welcomed by African countries and appreciated by the African people.
At present, 44 African countries and the African Union Commission signed the BRI cooperation documents with China, demonstrating our African brothers’ trust in China-Africa cooperation. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway, jointly built by China and Kenya, created more than 30,000 local jobs during its construction alone, boosting Kenya’s economic growth by 1.5 percentage points, and several industrial parks and special economic zones that are being planned out are just a few examples. China’s assistance to Africa and trade with Africa has effectively enhanced relevant countries’ socio-economic development and people’s wellbeing by delivering concrete benefits to them. All these fruits not only reflect China’s economic power and the technological advantages of its enterprises, but also satisfy Nigeria’s industrial priorities in the process of its economic growth, expounding on the essence of “sincere and honest” in China-Africa cooperation.
China-Africa cooperation has never been exclusive. We welcome greater attention and input in Africa from the international community. The African countries have the best say in who truly brings benefits to them.