The just-concluded 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) again provided another opportunity for China and its African allies to strengthen their ties.
Even before the parley began, it was obvious that it would deliver the best of results in terms of consolidating on Chinese-assisted infrastructural development agenda across Africa.
With more countries joining the fray after the last forum in South Africa, preparation for the Beijing colloquium had sparkles that projected the success story it eventually turned out to be.
Today, the allure and sudden glue to China by African countries is a consummate reflection of a friend in need finding a true and an honest ally in the former.
The testimonial to this effect hinges on a number of ebullient generosities, considering the fact that China, between the year 2000 and 2016 had loaned about $125 billion to the continent.
FOCAC provided a greater opportunity for participants to cement new developmental relationship as well as consolidate on on-going infrastructure works that have made China the greatest friend of the black continent.
As usual with its appetite to take Africa to a higher realm in terms of growth, the pragmatic camaraderie opened at FOCAC with the host country’s delivery of $60 billion promised government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies.
To ensure proper disbursement, the funds have been tied to eight initiatives that have been carefully spelt out to fill some infrastructural gaps.
This will include $15 billion of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, $20 billion of credit lines, the setting up of a $10 billion special fund for development financing and a $5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.
It is also commendable that in addition to the outflow of generosity, the rapidly growing second biggest economy in the world widened its gesture as Africa’s least developed countries that are heavily indebted, but with diplomatic relations with China, will be exempted from paying debts incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due to mature by the end of 2018.
Coming home to Nigeria, the forum again lightened up the cordial relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping. It elicited an eagerness on the part of the Nigerian leader to amass the opportunities that are almost being freely given to see Nigeria’s economic growth move faster than ever.
No doubt, China has the upper hand in a lot of things and Nigeria stands to gain a lot from it. China sees Nigeria as a big market, not just to develop in hurry and move funds back home, but a destination where it intends to leave an eternal mark by registering its presence in every endeavour.
From rail projects, power, communication, oil and gas, education to ubiquitous restaurants, China has continued to record great presence in Nigeria and still yearning to apply itself in more areas.
In recent time, no foreign country has supported Nigeria like China and this year’s FOCAC is already pregnant with more promises to be delivered with speed in a few years from now.
President Buhari had every reason to commend the relationship between both countries, citing the successful completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line built by the Chinese and on-going works on Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Abuja, Kano railway routes as well as on-going negotiating on the Mambilla power project.
China is, today, the largest investor in the sub-region in both private and public sectors covering areas such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, mining and healthcare. China also provides significant assistance in emergency humanitarian aid and response to climate change.
ECOWAS member-states will continue to lay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region. To this end, they look at the opportunities that the China International Import-Export initiative will offer exporters to gain market access for their goods and services in China.
Such an opportunity will help in diversifying the economy of the sub-region from over-reliance on primary agricultural and mineral products and subsequently correct the huge trade imbalance between China and the ECOWAS sub-region on a win-win basis for both parties.
President Jinping also demonstrated his seriousness to see Africa grow by reminding African leaders that Chinese funds were not for “vanity projects,” but to build infrastructure that can remove development bottlenecks.
“China values sincerity, friendship and equality in pursuing cooperation. The over 1.3 billion Chinese people have been with the over 1.2 billion African people in pursuing a shared future. We respect Africa, love Africa and support Africa. China’s investment in Africa came with no political strings attached….
“China’s cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects, but in places where they count the most,” Jinping said.
By reminding business leaders of Chinese firms in Africa to be aware of their social responsibilities by making sure their investments serve the community and improve their wellbeing, the leader has tactically given assurance of a tension-free investment environment, which is lacking among some multinational investors in connivance with some influential community leaders.
Indeed, Chinese investors have been known for looking for more space to ply their trade, spread opportunities and make a difference wherever they find worthy.
In this respect, we commend the government and people of China for continually giving Africa hope, even in the face of despair.
As the FOCAC ends with great promises ahead, we advise African countries, particularly Nigeria, to reciprocate the gestures by ensuring that the lessons learnt are brought back home for the good of all.
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