|The Belt and Road: New Opportunities for China-Nigeria Cooperation|
In 2013, China’s president, Xi Jinping, proposed the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (The Belt and Road). Essentially, the “Belt” includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The “Road” is a complementary initiative aimed at investing and fostering collaboration in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Africa, through several contiguous bodies of water – the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the wider Indian Ocean area. “the Belt and Road” Initiative comprises more than physical connections. It aims to create the world’s largest platform for promoting Policy Coordination, Facilities Connectivity, Unimpeded Trade, Financial Integration and People-to-People Bond. Since then, the Initiative has made good progress in various cooperation and won warm response and active participation. More than 100 countries and international organizations have joined this Initiative, among which more than 40 have signed cooperation agreements with China, reaching a broad international consensus on the Belt and Road Initiative.
Africa has a natural and historical connection with the Initiative. In 15th century, Chinese Admiral Zheng He led a fleet of 300 ships to Africa, which has planted friendship seeds in the hearts of both Chinese and African people since then. With area of over 30 million square kilometers, 1.1 billion population (Youth accounts for more than 50%), 800 million hectares arable land, countless natural resources, Africa is unarguably an important pillar of the world economy. Most African Countries endeavor to industrialize and diversify their economies, while China, after nearly 40-year reform and opening-up, has accumulated rich experience in industrialization and modernization. The combination of Chinese capital, technology, market, enterprises, talents, rich experience in development and African abundant resources, huge demographic dividend, great market potential will have a great chance to make another miracle of development.
As the leading country of West Africa and one of the most powerful country in Africa, Nigeria is highly respected and expected from all over the world, especially from China. We are strategic partners sharing with similar cultures, historical background and highly-complementary economies. The friendship has borne rich fruits covering almost all fields in recent years, but just as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his visit to Abuja in January: “Compared with the size, population and market of our two countries，our cooperation still have a large potential to be deepened”. Considering the development strategies of our two countries are highly matched, the deepened cooperation has a great chance to spark chemical reaction and make our two countries greater.
After decades of years’ excessive reliance on oil, the other industries of Nigeria are undergrown, and the large reserve of human resource is underused. Nigeria government is eager and working hard to diversify its economy as well as to train more talents who are able to shoulder the responsibility in this new era. Meanwhile, China, through platform like Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)，the Belt and Road Initiative and many other mechanisms, shows its strong willingness to share its experience and achieve common development with other countries. With the late-starting advantage, Nigeria can introduce most advanced management, cutting-edge technology and experienced talents in all fields from China, thus avoiding detours China once took, and such late-starting advantage, together with the good governance, reform and opening-up policy and dedication of several generations’ Chinese people, contributes to the China’s development miracle. If China can achieve such miracle, so can Nigeria.
Under the sluggish world economy, we witnessed the downturn of the trade volume between China and Nigeria, but Chinese Investment in Nigeria grew by 27% last year. China has already invested or financed a total number of $22 billion projects here in Nigeria, another $23 billion projects are on-going. Accompanying the investment, Chinese technology, management and experienced talents also flood into Nigeria, which greatly boost the diversification and development of Nigerian economy. The benefits from Chinese investment can be seen everywhere. I have been worked as Chinese Consul General in Lagos since July last year and already visited several states in my consular jurisdiction. Save for the hospitality and kindness of Nigerian people, what impressed me most is the strong willingness and enthusiasm of local people to welcome Chinese investment, and they told me that the Chinese investment had become the pillar of local economy and made their hometown a better place, which I am so happy and proud to hear. In my opinion, Nigeria has all the required qualities to become another world manufacturer, and China has the willingness and ability to help Nigeria realize its potential. China and Nigeria need to find a platform and mechanism to effectively conduct our cooperation, and this is the very role the Belt and Road Initiative plays.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos that from 14 to 15 May this Year, China will host in Beijing the Belt and Road Forum (BRF)for International Cooperation, which aims to discuss ways to boost cooperation, build cooperation platforms and share cooperation outcomes. The forum will also explore ways to address problems facing global and regional economy, create fresh energy for pursuing interconnected development and make the Belt and Road initiative deliver greater benefits to the people of all countries, including Nigeria. The BRF will be the highest-level forum under the Initiative since its launching over three years ago, and an important diplomatic event China will host this year. Considering the economy, population and market of the the Belt and Road Initiative participating countries, the Forum will make great impact on world economy in the coming years. As an envoy to Nigeria, I look forward to working with Nigerian friends to more actively participate in the Initiative, and lay a more solid foundation and foster greater connectivity for world economic growth.