The volume of trade between Nigeria and China hit $10 billion from January to August 2017. Out of this figure, Chinese firms made investments in Nigeria valued at $2.7 billion within the period, according to Chao Xiaoliang, Chinese consul-general to Nigeria. In the previous year, trade between both countries equalled $9.5 billion.
Nigeria and China are strategic and significant countries, with the former being Africa’s largest economy and most populous country, and the latter the most populous country in East Asia and world’s fastest-grown economy in recent times.
Trade between Nigeria and China is still skewed towards the latter, owing to unequal developments in both countries. Nigeria imports virtually everything, from toothpick to tomatoes, from China. China, on the other hand, buys raw materials, mainly animal skins and minerals, from Nigeria.
There have also been issues around the influx of fake and substandard products into Nigeria from China, with each country blaming the other.
However, Nigeria stands to gain more from China than from any country or economic bloc. China currently has a clear strategy towards Africa, unlike the European Union or the United States. But this is mostly enjoyed by South Africa and Ethiopia.
A McKinsey report on Africa-China economic partnership last year described Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania as superior partners to China. The report also identified Ethiopia and South Africa as robust partners, with a clear strategic posture toward China. Superior partners have economic and social relations with China but do not have clear and strategic postures.
China Exim Bank and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation recently completed a $3.4-billion fully-electrified railway crisscrossing Ethiopia and Djibouti. Chinese firms have developed over 10 industrial parks in the East African country from where they export to the US, Europe and other parts of the world.
China completed Abuja-Kaduna standard rail and plans to do more, but experts say it is not enough. They believe Nigeria needs to open up more to China to develop its dilapidated infrastructure. They also caution that such a relationship with China needs to be closely monitored to avoid being abused by Chinese traders.
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