Monday, May 2, 2016

As Buhari Welcomes China, Lets Beware of the Chinese

China has knocked on the doors of many African countries, Nigeria inclusive. Gladly African leaders have opened all the doors for them. Africa has opened its doors to the Chinese in a quest to tap from the mouth-watering offers from them. Most development enthusiasts admire the growing Afro-Sino relationship and the way China is ‘helping’ many African countries in the development of their economies and infrastructure. However, keen watchers of the Chinese’s explore of Africa have an aversion to the way the Chinese approach Africa. They come with everything- The Yuan, labour force, machinery and even their language- the Mandarin. I admire mandarin- sweet language.

Nigeria occupies a special place in China’s relationship with Africa, because of the country’s potentials and market size. Nigeria can thus take advantage of its special position in China’s relationship with Africa. When dealing with the Chinese, the Nigerian government and private entrepreneurs should specifically not forget the need for local content development. And, we should be aware that the Chinese are not coming for nothing, mutual benefits and sharing of responsibilities should be key.

For example, instead of flooding the Nigerian markets with cheap Chinese textile, the Nigerian government should implore Chinese investors to build textile factories in Nigeria or help to revive the moribund ones. We have many cotton farmers, fertile land, thousand of skilled textile workers and a very large market. President Buhari was very right when he said to the Chinese investors: “Do not see Nigeria as a consumer market alone, but as an investment destination where goods can be manufactured and consumed locally”

The currency (Yuan) deal between Nigeria and China will surely boost Nigeria’s economy- Nigerian businesses that import from China will have access to the Yuan easily. However, we should look at other ways to use the Chinese to make Nigeria a manufacturing nation. For instance, Nigerian can push for major Chinese investment in agro-allied industrialization being that based on the prevailing economic reality; agricultural development should be our main target now. Nigeria should use the relationship with the Chinese to advance building prototype agricultural equipments and machinery. Plants and factories for the manufacturing of these can be established in Nigeria. It pains to see that millions of tonnes of tomatoes and other perishable crops get wasted in northern Nigeria due to the absence of simple preservation and packaging equipment.

Another area that Nigeria can utilize its relationship with the Chinese for mutual benefits is in building modular petroleum refineries – the recent call by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for investors to invest in the oil and gas sector by co-locating refineries within premises of any of the four existing for state owned refineries – with mouth watering incentives is a major boost in this regard. The Chinese investors can within short period come-up with modular refineries. The NNPC can encourage investors to site more than one refinery per refinery premises. This will make investors feel more welcome and boost investment, competition and improve refined products supply for national consumption.

There are already good reports that the Yuan deal is yielding positive results- as pressure on dollar is easing. Thus, we should look to explore other aspects of currency agreement to help leapfrog the economy of Nigeria. Nigeria can also use the Chinese to harness the country solar and wind energy. Nigeria can negotiate with the Chinese investors to site critical manufacturing industries that will free large chunk of foreign exchange. For instance, the Chinese can collaborate with Nigeria investors to build solar panel and wind vends producing factories accompanied with tax waivers for some years. Thus, the solar panels and wind vends can be used for electricity generation in many states of Nigeria, especially rural areas.

There have been concerns about the Chinese exploring all beneficial avenues of agreements they sign with African countries, while most Africa countries do not. We cannot blame the Chinese; they negotiate their way to get what they want, while African political leaders negotiate while keeping our minds on one or two things. For example, on the currency deal between Nigeria and China, we keep on emphasizing on the benefit of easing pressure of foreign exchange for import purposes; while there are hundreds of other benefits of currency agreements which we can gain from on the long term.

The budding Afro-Sino rapport is a gold mine for Nigeria because of our potentials and strategic position in Africa, however we might find ourselves shortchanged if we do not, in our local parlance; ‘wise up’ and beware of the Chinese.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980

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