‘Our 10-point cooperation plan suits Nigeria diversification agenda’
Mr. Zhao LinXiang is the Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria. In this interview with CHIJIOKE NELSON, he speaks on Nigeria’s trade relations and the country’s support for diversification of the economy.
The Nigeria-China relationship over the years has been productive. What areas are the highlights and where is the focus for more development?
As we know, 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship and the 11th anniversary of the establishment of strategic partnership between China and Nigeria. The remarkable achievements have been made in economic and trade cooperation between the two countries in recent years. The bilateral trade volume between China and Nigeria as at 2015 was $14.94 billion. This represents 8.3 per cent of total trade volume between China and Africa, and 42 per cent of total trade volume between China and ECOWAS. Nigeria continues to be China’s third largest trading partner in Africa and China has made direct investment worth over $2.5 billion in Nigeria by 2015. This has made Nigeria one of the most important destinations of Chinese investments in Africa. But the most important cooperation between the two countries is in infrastructure development. A large number of projects have either been completed or being implemented in Nigeria with Chinese funds, advanced technologies and services such as railway projects, airport terminals and hydro power plants, among others. As you know, China is the largest developing country in the world and Nigeria is the largest developing country in Africa and both have complementary advantages in natural resources, funds, human resources, and markets, which offer much more potential cooperation between them in the future for mutual benefits and common development.
Diversification of the oil sector has been the focus of the Nigerian government. How can China partner with the country in this project?
We know that Nigeria is trying to diversify its economy from the oil resources, which is major. The government also takes agriculture and solid minerals development as top priority. As you know, the 10 China-Africa cooperation plans announced by my President, Xi Jinping, at the Johannesburg Summit on China-Africa Cooperation, last year, are fully in line with your country’s economic development plan. Like I have said earlier, China and Nigeria have complementary advantages in natural resources, funds, human resources, and markets. There are great potential for cooperation between China and Nigeria in the fields of industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure development, financial services, trade and investment facilitation, among others. Such cooperation definitely will help Nigeria diversify its economy and benefit the people of both countries in the future.
The Chinese economy has experienced a slow growth for sometimes now, and it has affected many countries particularly those that have bilateral trade relationship with China. What is your take on this?
Some people said the slowdown in growth of China’s economy affected the African economy. As we know, China’s economic growth rate was 6.9 per cent last year. The world may think this is a sign of slowdown for Chinese economy, but I seem not to agree on that. Actually, the 6.9 per cent growth rate represents an outstanding performance among all the countries in the world. China is still the driving force for world economy. You know, the world has not yet shaken off the profound impacts of the financial crisis, and both world trade and the world economy have grown at a very low speed. Look at the developed countries economic growth rate last year. The United States of America was 2.4 per cent; the Euro zone was just a little more than one per cent; and Japanese was no more than one per cent. In my opinion, the slowdown in Africa’s economic development was apparently caused by the international financial crisis, especially by the price decline of primary products. China is not the major export market of African primary products.
Maybe, you will say that the amount of China’s import from Africa declined in 2015. Yes it declined indeed, but the quantity didn’t decline remarkably. China is still the largest trade partner of Africa. Moreover, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa is not only trade, but also economic and technical cooperation and investment. For investment, China has constantly increased its stake in Africa. In 2000, China’s total investment volume in Africa was less than one billion dollars, while the volume of last year exceeded $100 billion, increasing by over 100 times in a short span of over 10 years.
This growth rate is much faster than that of China-Africa trade. That is to say, the cooperation between China and Africa is moving to the new level. At Johannesburg Summit last year, 10 China-Africa cooperation plans announced by Chinese Government include industrialisation, agriculture modernisation, infrastructure development, financial cooperation trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public health. China values the fulfillment of its commitments and matches its action to its words and will stand to implement the plans with African countries for shared benefits and common development.
How will you describe the bilateral relationship between China and Nigeria?
China takes Nigeria very serious and sees the country as strategic partner in Africa. As for economic and trade cooperation, China and Nigeria are the largest economy and most populous countries in Asia and Africa. The two economies are highly complementary. There are great potentiality between China and Nigeria in economic and trade cooperation for mutual benefits. Those plans announced by my President at the end of last year’s summit are just in line with the ongoing diversification of Nigeria’s economy. And we also know that last year my President met with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari twice, in New York and Johannesburg. And both Presidents are going to make their third meeting soon. It is believed that President Buhari’s visit to China, which will be the first African leader to visit China after Johannesburg Summit, will breathe new life into the bilateral economic cooperation. It is also believed that during his stay in China, the two leaders will further discuss on how to fully implement the fruits of the summit, including the 10 cooperation plans and relevant financing arrangements and how to carry them out in the form of projects, which are conducive to economic development. To sum up, I believe there will be a bright glory and splendid future ahead for the two countries’ relationship.
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