Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Beijing
A few months after President Muhammadu Buhari signed different Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with the Chinese Government on economic development and cooperation, a senior Chinese official told THISDAY in China that the deals may be hampered unless the Nigerian government moves very quickly to fix its poor infrastructure like electricity, gas, roads and the current security challenges in the country.
The Managing Director of Zhongfu International Investment Company Limited, Mr. N C. Chan, stated this while speaking with THISDAY in Zhongshan, China wednesday.
This came as the Deputy Director-General, Department of African Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China, Mr. Zhou Pingjian, also told THISDAY in Beijing that China and Nigerian government, still had a lot to do after Buhari’s state visit to Beijing in order to reap bountifully the benefits of the visit.
The Chinese investment company boss, who coordinates business development for Chinese companies, including the China-Guangdong/Nigeria-Ogun Free Trade Zone, one of the three overseas economic and trade cooperation zones to be first established in Africa countries, said 37 Chinese companies have kick started business activities in Nigeria between 2010 and 2015, with over $100 million invested.
“With electricity, gas, good roads and good security situation in Nigeria, the free trade zone will definitely have a more rapid development than ever; because it is the key to the next step for free trade zone’s success,’’ Chan stated.
He said China was ready to do more, especially with the recent MoU between China and Nigeria, if the necessary economic environment was further strengthened.
Pingjian added:“Our government encourages us to be the market oriented player both in domestic and international sector, including Nigeria. We have a lot of attention in Nigeria, it is the biggest market in Africa, with the largest population.
“The timing is good for us to achieve our win-win economic development programme in Nigeria; our Free Trade Zone plan is to have over 100 companies in Nigeria in the next few years. We currently have 40, with 37 Chinese companies. The number of local employment rate is increasing.’’
Also, the deputy director-general said Chines government had high affection for Nigeria and values its relationship with African countries in general, advising the federal government to fix the security situation in the country.
Pingjian said the Chinese government was planning a huge business investment in Nigeria because of the strategic position of the country in Africa.
“Nigeria has a huge market, you have the potentials. From President Buhari’s state visit, there is huge opportunity for China to invest in Nigeria. Nigeria is high in our agenda. Nigeria is the leader of Africa, and is a trail blazer.
“China’s relationship with Nigeria is very special. We hold your country in high esteem. We have the expertise, the technologies and money to partner with Nigeria,’’Pingjian.
He said the Chinese government had shown interest in power generation, refineries, oil and gas, agriculture and other general trade in Nigeria.
Responding to a question on trade imbalance that currently exists between both countries in favour of China, he said his country had no intention to treat Nigeria unfairly.
The Chinese senior diplomat added:”We have no plan to treat Nigeria unfairly over the perceived trade imbalance, generally speaking. As far as we are concerned, China’s trade with Nigeria is balance. Sometime, our economic structures tilt our positions. But we are making effort to do more in Nigeria. We are being encouraged to do more for Nigeria.’’
He however advised the Nigerian government to improve on its security, saying it is one crucial area which investors lay their emphasis on when taking economic decisions.
“It is usual for countries to think about security issue before investing in any country; but on our part, we don’t hesitate to encourage our investors to invest in Nigeria. The press should also encourage both countries. They should help Chinese to better understand Nigeria,’’ he further stated.
On his part, Nigeria’s acting Ambassador to China, Mr. Olusola Orevba, told THISDAY that the embassy is following all the MoUs, President Buhari signed with Chinese government in order not to lose focus and momentum of the deals.
Orevba added: “I just returned from Abuja and what President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to do is to ensure all the MoU he signed with the Chinese government are implemented.
“And we are ensuring there is collaboration between China and Nigeria in sensitising the people about the huge benefits of the president’s visit. We are following up the MoUs in order not to lose the momentum and the focus. The Chinese government is willing to assist Nigeria.’’
He said Nigerians would start seeing the benefits of the visit in no distant time, adding that already, the Chinese government had invited 30 Nigerians to attend the coming youth summit in Beijing.