By IKENNA EMEWU
Years ago, the longing to put up an organised platform to harness the benefits of an integrated economic and business benefits between Nigeria and China became a concept that needed to be birthed.
The desire was uppermost in the minds of some Nigerians prominent among whom was Chief Matthew Uwaekwe, a businessman, technocrat who over time turned a business ambassador and champion.
He saw quite early those potential in China that the world needed to tap into for mutual benefits.
His ideas coincided with that of China’s turn of events to embrace the world and share in experience and economic possibilities. That was an age when China’s major desire was to outsource manufacturing, ideas and forge friendships with the rest of the world.
The factors fell into place quite on time, and the body that was later to be formally recognised as the Nigeria-China Business Council (NCBC) started incubating.
It carved a mission: “To promote and encourage good business relationships, and serve as a bridge for Chinese and Nigerians with genuine business interests through trade and investment missions, expert conferences, match-making events and brokerage between investors, manufacturers an project developers.,” as Uwaekwe told us
Looking back in time
The seeds of the NCBC were planted in the bowels of an association described as the Committee of Friends and Associates of Chinese Business Community in Nigeria. “That association, which emerged in October 2003, was borne out of keen observation of emerging global economic trends. It was considered pertinent to make Nigerians aware and conscious of the tremendous economic and technological transformations taking place in China with a view to taking profitable advantage of them.
Through its reform policy, China has indeed repositioned and largely transformed its economy. Hence, current world economic growth and development indicators portray China as the largest and perhaps, the fastest growing economy. On the other hand also, Nigeria is the largest growing market on the African Continent and from available statistics; China is today Nigeria’s most valuable trading partner,” he explained.
It was also noted that business relations between Nigerians and Chinese had been conducted on official, government to government basis with little or no input from the private sector. It was therefore thought that a forum which would bring together, articulate and harness the needs of individual Nigerian and Chinese business people and their corporate organizations was highly desirable.
Initiating mutual business partnership
Because of the compelling need for closer ties with the Chinese People, Dr. Matthew Uwaekwe initiated a series of consultations with key stakeholders in the Nigerian socio-economic and political environment. Consultations were held with the then Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ibrahim Mantu, President Olusegun Obasanjo, then the incumbent president and Chief Jacob C. K. Wood, Chairman/CEO, Golden Gate Group of Companies.
On the advice and recommendation of President Obasanjo, Wood was designated as Chairman of the Association, in view of his personal contributions and outstanding success in China and in Nigeria. Uwaekwe was also appointed the National Coordinator of the new association.
The new Association was made up of Nigerians and Chinese individuals and corporate organizations of proven integrity and responsibility, in a symbolic and reciprocal relationship for the purpose of facilitating better, smoother and increased business relationship among peoples of the two countries. At the formal inauguration of this body, on 31st October, 2013 in Abuja, Senator Mantu, Ambassador Waziri , the Minister of Commerce and Industry were present and Chief (Mrs.) Modupe Adelaja, Director General, SMEDAN, represented Mr. President. His Excellency, Wang Yonqiu, the Chinese ambassador represented the government of the People’s Republic of China.
First Nigeria-China trade forum
At the behest of time, the Chinese Business Community in Nigeria, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, (CCPIT) organized the first Nigeria – China Trade and Investment Forum, held in Abuja, from 9 – 11 November, 2009. The event which took place at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Conference Centre and Golden Gate Hotel, Abuja, attracted dignitaries ranging from the Vice President, state governors, commissioners, industrialists and operators in the commerce and many others in business.
The identity is born
During the meeting of members of the National Organizing Committee with the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Chief Charles Ugwu on the hosting of the First Nigeria China Trade and Investment Forum, the Minister stressed the need for the organizers to give themselves a name, in order to ensure continuity. He, therefore, suggested the name, Nigeria – China Business Council, (NCBC)
In accordance with the Minister’s suggestion, the Organizing Committee, therefore, resolved to organize the event annually adopting the name.
At the opening ceremony of the event, President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo unveiled the logo of NCBC at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua conference Centre, Abuja, on November 9, 2009.
The Chinese Business Community in Nigeria and the Committee of Friends and Associates of the Chinese Business Community in Nigeria, had on 31 October, 2013 signed, sealed and delivered an MOU of Friendship and collaboration, which had set the tone for executing the First Nigeria – China Trade and Investment Forum and the founding of Nigeria – China Business Council (NCBC)
The NCBC is, therefore, a non-political, non-sectarian, non-governmental, private sector organization, established by the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the People’s Republic of China for the seamless promotion of trade and investment between Nigeria and China.
The NCBC having started on a sound footing set out with some intentions on what should be actualized.
The none targets even though looking large seems very realizable by the group that is made of outstanding personalities of quality human rescource depth/
It started with an intention: “To initiate ideas towards the development of a healthy China – Nigeria Trade and investment relationship
To create awareness among members of the business community of both countries on the variety, depth and breadth of opportunities presented by the potentials of the respective countries and citizens.
To harmonize the potentials of both countries, both in their national and global contexts to create greater measures of awareness among citizens and associates of both countries about the merits of a strong bilateral relationship.
To evolve and sustain match-making arrangements between Nigerian business community and the Chinese counterparts.
To assure access and exposure to process technology transfer from China as well as access to long term finance to SMEs in accordance with policy guidelines.
To articulate and appropriate policies which would enhance and motivate the establishment of medium and small scale industries in Nigeria with the assistance of China.
To acquaint members with adequate information on government policy initiatives, incentives and direction in order to enhance profitable engagement with the business environment.
To liaise effectively with appropriate ministries, departments and agencies of government to protect the vital business interests of members and also to ensure full compliance with policies, rules and regulations by members.
To ensure the full realization of the several strategic agreements signed with various statutory, function-specific organizations and group in China.”
It has been years since these objectives were put into the records. But so far, the NCBC can look back in pride and say it has not done badly in the pursuit of its objectives.
It has so far endorsed an MOU establishing the Committee of Friendship and Associates of the Chinese Business Community in Nigeria, (CFACBCN)
It has also made contributions to reposition trade and investment between Nigeria and China.
It has also become widely accepted that globalization is a process of interaction and integration among peoples, companies and government around the world, a process driven mostly by international trade and investment, and propelled by information and communications technology. Nigeria and China are unarguably active participants in the globalization process through trade and investment.
Nigeria and China have established strong trading links over the years these interactions have accumulated in the signing of a Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in 2001, a strategic Partnership agreement (SPA) signed in 2005. A memorandum of understanding on investment cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Nigeria and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China in 2006 and Economic Cooperation Agreement between Nigeria and Guangdong Xinguang International Group of China in 2006.
These agreements were measures taken to enrich and enhance the contents of existing bilateral relations and further broaden economic cooperation between the two Countries. Again, Trade agreements were signed to facilitate and develop trade relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit as both Countries understand that cooperation in trade is critical to attaining maximum socio-economic growth and development in their respective countries over.
At an interview with Uwaekwe in Lagos this week, he told the ACE that while watchers can say the NCBC has done well, the body he leads doesn’s seem to be taking stock so far.
“We still have so much to be done and everyday presents a new chapter of challenges for the group.
These days, we have the latest on our hands that is insecurity and how it adversely affects business and partnerships with our foreign partners. That is why in the first week of May we were in Abuja to solicit the support of the security system to safeguard our investments and the country.
“We interacted with the army, Navy, air force, the police and many others and sought ways of solving the challenge and also chipping in our suggestions. We also got their words of support to get the retardation out of the way.”