Solomon Elusoji in Beijing
As part of their commitment to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which seeks to promote a shared prosperous future for humanity, a number of multinational companies in central China have announced their desire to invest in the Nigerian market.
These companies spoke exclusively to THISDAY throughout the past week during a media tour to Wuhan and Yichang, two cities in central China’s Hubei Province. The companies cut across sectors such as health, agriculture, logistics and technology. They touted Nigeria’s large population and booming economy as factors for their intentions.
“We really want to come to Nigeria,” Vice Director, International Business Department, Yichang Humanwell Healthcare Company, Nick Cao, told THISDAY. “It’s a potentially big market for us.” Humanwell is a leading speciality pharmaceutical company in China focusing on research and development and manufacturing of drugs, with a special focus on anesthetics.
Cao’s comments were echoed by representatives of companies such as WAE Logistics, Angel Yeast, Yangtze Optical Fibre and Cable, and others visited by THISDAY, who cited the Belt and Road initiative as a critical boost for Chinese companies seeking to expand their reach abroad.
“Belt and Road” is a massive trade and infrastructure project that aims to link China — physically and financially — to dozens of economies across Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. With a budget of about $1trillion, it has been described as the largest investment drive ever launched by a single country
It consists of two parts: The “Belt,” which recreates an old Silk Road land route, and the “Road,” which is not just restricted to physical connections road, but designed to forge win-win ties across nations.
The Silk Road was an ancient land route across Europe and Asia that connected traders and travellers from regions like the China, Persia, and the Roman Empire. Merchants used to transport silk and other commodities by camel or horse along those roads.
As of January 2018, 71 countries (including China) are taking part in the project. They include India, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand, and Russia. Altogether, these 71 countries represent a third of the world’s GDP.
So far China is estimated to have underwritten over $900bn of loans — some on concessionary terms, many on commercial terms.
Some of these loans have financed a gas pipeline in Pakistan, a motorway in Hungary, and a high-speed rail link in Thailand. More loans are expected to be underwritten.
Although Nigeria is yet to formally join China’s Belt and Road initiative, relations between the two countries have been cordial, a fact reflected in the duo’s economic and trade activities.
In 2014, trade between Nigerian and China peaked at $18.1 billion before falling to $11.1 billion in 2016. In 2017, it was estimated at 13.8 billion, according to figures released by Chinese officials.
It is unclear when or if the country will formally announce to join the initiative, but all signs point to positive emotions.
“Nigeria has been watching with keen interest the Belt and Road Initiative,” the Nigeria’s Consul-General in Guangzhou, China, Wale Oloko, said last January.
He added: “Although China and Nigeria are separated by thousands of kilometers, the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative will be felt by both sides with the generation of new exports, including raw materials, from Nigeria to China, and Chinese exports of goods and services to and funding for infrastructure projects in Nigeria.”