China has prioritised building relations with other countries as part of its foreign policy. As the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) arrives, there is a compelling need for Nigeria to participate in the 18th summit holding in Beijing next month as a way of enhancing relations between both countries.

FOCAC commenced in 2000, through the joint initiative of China and African countries to further strengthen friendly cooperation. The last meeting was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015. Delegations from 50 African countries together with the African Union were in attendance. China made available to Africa the sum of $60 billion which would be in loans and export credits. Out of it, $5 billion was for grants and interest-free loans. Fifty three African nations, including Nigeria that have bilateral cooperation agreement with China are expected at this latest FOCAC summit.

The President of China, Xi Jinping, reflecting on the significance of the summit, averred that the partnership through FOCAC is based on five pillars, political equality and mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, security cooperation and mutual assistance as well as solidarity and coordination in international affairs. All of which would be beneficial to Nigeria.Africa as a whole has infrastructural challenges which China has already expressed its determination to assist in redressing, one of which is construction of rail lines.

As such it would be wise to strengthen partnership and work hand in hand with the second largest economy in the world that is ready and prepared for a trade cooperation.Moreover, FOCAC is inevitably linked to the much talked-about international blueprint of Chinese global cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative ,which was introduced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is built on the foundations of the silk route used to promote trade and people to people exchanges.

So, it is not surprising that one of the key themes of the FOCAC summit is connecting the BRI with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the AU 2063 Agenda and development strategies of the African countries such as Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).Since the Initiative started, there have been developments and improvement in China -Africa relations in the key areas of industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, green development, poverty alleviation, public health, trade and investment facilitation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, peace and security.

Again, trade volume between China and Africa has grown from 10.6 billion United States dollars to 170 billion U.S. dollars from the year 2000 to 2017. China’s outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock in Africa has risen from 500 million U.S. dollars to over 41 billion U.S. dollars in the same period of time; hence the importance of FOCAC and Nigeria’s role.Both Nigeria and China are arduously working towards a mutually beneficial development strategy. China is presently working on a two-stage development plan from 2020 to the middle of the 21st century. Nigeria has equally adopted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and its Vision 20:2020. The Abuja/Kaduna light rail and Abuja metro line are all the result of the China Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Forum on China Africa Cooperation.

It is important to point out the likely gains from a partnership between Nigeria and China, both of which are perceived as emerging markets with potentials that are inherently good for the continent as well as the Asian country. Already China has taken practical steps through agreements to facilitate infrastructural assistance designed to uplift the country in dire need of those development-inducing inputs.

Again, the position of Nigeria as not just the most populous country in Africa but its biggest economy is a good market for China’s export oriented economy. It is our view that both countries with similarities that can be tapped to fast-track socio-economic development must come much closer in international relations. FOCAC is a veritable starting point and it is our hope that the two giants in their own rights will exploit the positive side of the summit in a way that will bring them even more closer so as to provide the anticipated leverage from such a cooperation. Eventually, the two countries will reap the benefits of taking advantage of the shared values.