Made in China, counterfeited for Nigeria

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 01: Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) greets President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (L) during a plenary session of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting the fourth and final in a series of summits to highlight accomplishments and make new commitments towards reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.   Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 01: Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) greets President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (L) during a plenary session of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit April 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama is hosting the fourth and final in a series of summits to highlight accomplishments and make new commitments towards reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

President Muhammadu Buhari could not have picked a better place for his next stop on what many Nigerians have begun to see as a presidency-on-the-road. There is a lot to learn from China. With about two billion mouths being fed in that country, the leader of 170 million people (conservative estimate) could do with a lesson or two on ‘crowd feeding.’

It is also quite re-assuring that the visit to China would not be a quick, meet-a-few-persons, sign-some-papers and pick-a-few-things-in-the-mall junket. For a whole week, the president will be in the Orient, learning some of the tricks the Chinese deployed to move from extreme poverty to the station of one of the most economically advanced countries in the world.

With China’s first-rate, and still developing, infrastructure, a sound economy, even if a bit slowed at the moment, and a human capital hardly rivaled by any other nation, it is appropriately viewed as the next or new super-power, especially given its aggressive incursion into resource-rich Africa.

It is very appropriate that Buhari is on the trip with a few governors, ministers and some aides. The governors, especially, need that trip. Confucian wisdom from the East and its attendant results in China’s development, at least, may make them understand devotion or service to the people who put them in high offices.

Of course, many of them may have been to China even before now and signed all kinds of agreements, the belief is that a greater seriousness will attend this one and under the watchful eyes of Buhari, they would spend less time in the shopping malls and pay more attention to serious matters of state.

Those who would accompany him on the journey, apart from the governors, I hope, would include the ministers of Agriculture, Water Resources, Transportation, Defence, Power, Works & Housing, Industry, Trade & Investment, Science & Technology and, most importantly, Education.

For all of the miracle that China has become, education is the key! That is one country that not only invests massively in the nurturing of its human capital, but has succeeded by designing its curricula to include the preservation of Chinese culture, individuality and uniqueness. Nigeria can learn a lot from that.

President Buhari will arrive with a long shopping or begging list of needs, especially on infrastructure like power, roads, railways, aviation, water supply and housing. With emphasis on agriculture and solid minerals development for the diversification of the Nigerian economy, he is on his way to a place where he can see what has already been done and pick appropriate lessons from there. Again, he could not have picked a better place.

Not surprisingly, many agreements such as the Framework Agreement between the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and the National Development and Reform Commission of the Peoples’ Republic of China to Boost Industrial Activities and Infrastructural Development in Nigeria are due to be signed. Others like the Framework Agreement between the Federal Ministry of Communications and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and a Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and China on Scientific and Technological Cooperation will also be given impetus. It has been reported that the President and his delegation will also “tour the Shanghai Free Trade Zone and the Guangzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone to gain more useful insights and understanding of the policies that underpinned China’s astronomical economic growth in recent years.” Excellent idea!

With Nigeria’s inability to refine enough petroleum products to meet local consumption needs, even when it is Africa’s largest crude producer, tugging at his heart-strings, President Buhari may wish to ask his hosts to take him to the world’s largest coal-to-oil refinery. The Ordos coal liquefying project, which is the world’s largest coal-to-oil project, belongs to the Shenhua Group and is said to be the first one million-ton facility of its kind in the world.

He may also visit what has been described as the world’s largest nitrile rubber facility in Lanzhou Petrochemical Company, which is currently the world’s largest at 50,000 tonnes annual capacity.

Buhari should ask his hosts how they achieved the technological feat of building the world’s largest container ship, COSCO OCEANIA, which was wholly manufactured in China. At a total length of 349.5 meters and a width of 45.6 meters, that ship can carry 10,020 20-meter standard containers!

With the embarrassment of the Nigerian steel industry on his mind, with Aladja, Ajaokuta and Katsina steel rolling mills standing as monuments to waste, corruption and conscienceless leadership, President Buhari should see the Anshan Iron and Steel Group’s 5,500mm heavy plate rolling mill, reputed as the world’s largest heavy plate rolling mill.

While there, the Three Gorges hydroelectric plant, which is currently the world’s largest hydroelectric plant, and generates 70000 kilowatts of energy, should also be of interest to the President and members of his entourage.

In transportation, what is renowned as the world’s best Bus Rapid Transfer system and China’s high capacity, high speed rail transport system should also be experienced.

China’s exploits in agriculture, which has helped it lift 40 per cent of its population out of poverty is, of course, worthy of very diligent study and emulation. This is to mention just a few.
However, going to China and seeing these or learning about them is one thing. Coming back home to replicate them is another. For over the years, Nigerian leaders have proven themselves poor at internalising that oft-quoted line in primary school arithmetic: Example is the best teacher.

On previous trips to places where progress has been made even with less than half of the resources with which Nigeria is endowed, what lessons did our leaders learn?

What have they done with all the agreements they have signed and how much benefit has come to the people there-from?
Buhari’s China trip reminds me of the day, some years ago, when I, alongside my colleague, Eniola Bello, ran into the late Dora Akunyili in the lobby of our hotel in Beijing. What was she doing in China? As the much celebrated director general of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Akunyili had travelled to China to plead or sign some deals with the authorities there to halt the shipment of counterfeit drugs and food items to Nigeria. But in the course of her engagements, she was made to realize that the Chinese manufacturers were not often to blame! They merely obliged the requests of their Nigerian partners! As she was made to understand, Nigerians, in an attempt to maximize profit, would reach a deal with the Chinese producers to reduce the quality of the goods, especially medical products, to bring down their own cost while they would still charge the price for the real thing to the consumers back home.

A lot of such corner-cutting deals are still going on, of course, even as government does its best to stem the menace. But, on matters of counterfeiting, I am more worried about the mindset of the average Nigerian leader than that of the trader who brings in adulterated products, dangerous and unacceptable as that is. It is a mindset that corrupts trade or investment deals or corrupts their execution for personal gains. It is a disposition that sees examples abroad, lauds them but fails to follow such back home.

There is no doubt that we are blessed with a few persons who really want to do the work of Nigeria, leaders who would reflect on the positives of China’s progress and be genuinely outraged at Nigeria’s seeming incapacity to do same. But there is nothing out of place in the assumption, borne out by experience, that the kind of comfort the majority of those leaders find in vacuousness is likely to lay a journey like the current one to China to waste.

Undoubtedly, members of Buhari’s entourage will see so many things and learn so many lessons in China, many of which could easily be replicated or applied to the Nigerian condition. But my guess is that the essence of that primary school arithmetic lesson would be lost as they would fail to follow the same examples they have experienced. Or, at best, the lessons learnt or examples seen, like those goods made in China, would be counterfeited for or in Nigeria.

Of course, President Buhari is a critical variable in this assumption. And I pray he changes the narrative to one that reflects the ethos very much in demand now, one that says: “Seen in China, Very well done in Nigeria.” Hopefully!

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  • Gold Ruyondo

    China is the worst development partner for Africa

    • Taiwo Umolu

      Who is the best? I guess America and Western Europe in your mind. You just criticize to run non Caucasians down. Maybe you are the one.

      • amador kester

        China has to rethink its develppment partnership models,transfer relevant technologies,open up its huge,consumer markets, stop the land grab squabbles in parts of africa,establish free language schools to popularize mandarin as a modern international business language and fast track industrial and infrastructural upgrade in africa. It is trying but it needs to do much more to serve as alternative development partner

        • Taiwo Umolu

          I totally agree with you. These are things that the West trickishly refused to do for Africa. What happened to that arrangement with Africa, the Caribbean countries and Europe? I cannot believe I can’t remember the name anymore. Can you believe I did post graduate work on it? Nobody remembers it or maybe age is catching up with me. Am 63. Please remind me.

          • Gold Ruyondo


          • Izonebi

            Did anyone stop the Ugandan Authorities from inspecting the equipments to ensure they were not sub-standard?

            The Asians are actually a lot like us culturally and they will acquiescence to your proclivities if it ensures they are making profit. That is why Pre Inspection and Quality Assurance of goods are pursued but we also love to cut corners so do not blame the Chinese.

          • Gold Ruyondo

            if Uganda or any African country had the capacity to to tell from counterfeit then they could as well manufacture

  • amador kester

    China, the economic power house of the 21st century should kindly blot out this festering image of an unscrupulous patron and exponent of counterfeit products from its shadow

  • emmanuel kalu

    I can guarantee it would be another wasted trip and nothing reasonable would be brought back. Nigeria can solve its problem, we have the human capacity, resources and will. what we lack is effective leadership and poor implementation. The excuse that substandard dangerous goods are imported into Nigeria because Nigeria businessmen are asking for it, is just yet another excuse. one, not very many American would be allowed or even entertain that kind of request. Their government wouldn’t allow it, and the company own quality controls would not allow it. second, our regulators have not done enough to halt the flow of substandard product. if an importer import a substandard product, every single item should be completely destroyed. The importer should be fined the cost of the product plus additional 100% fine. They should also pay the import duties and taxes. They should also pay a special fine for threatening the national health and then go to jail for a long time. we have to make the importation of substandard so risky, expensive and criminally expensive to ensure that nobody would want to do it.

    • Taiwo Umolu

      Kalu, I hope u have been following the thread of this discussion. I was the first to comment on the writeup and I have followed it up to this point because there has not been abuses and uncivilized comments. You are Nigerian from your name and I would want to know what you will gain if this trip is a failure. Am asking because you claim it will be another ‘wasted trip and nothing reasonable would be brought back’. Use of another connotes that there has been at least one wasted trip before. Please as a fellow Nigerian, can you indicate that failed trip and why nothing came out of it. The net is a very good tool to interact but we owe it a duty to give good reasons for our position on issues. Maybe after that, we might look into your position that Nigeria can solve its problems with its human capital, resources and will which it has not done since 1960.