The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled for tomorrow and next (September 3 and 4) in Beijing, China, will see a new era of bilateral ties between Nigeria and China, experts have said.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian, told journalists recently that the summit would produce two outcome documents, one of which will be political and tagged ‘the Beijing Declaration Towards an Even Stronger China-Africa Community.’
“This political document will set down strategic guidelines for the development of China-Africa relations and reflect the consensus of China and Africa on major issues, including building stronger community in a shared future.
“The summit will also review and adopt the other document, ‘the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan’, which will lay out new approaches and new deliverables of enhancing win-win cooperation between the two sides,” Dr Pinjgian said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who arrived in China yesterday, is expected to speak at the business meeting of the summit. He will give his address alongside four heads of state from each sub region in Africa.
Fifty-three African nations having bilateral ties with China are expected at the summit tagged, ‘Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation.’
The summit will see several matters brought to the forefront to help advance China-Africa relations.
The Chinese envoy disclosed that today, September 2, the 7th ministerial conference of FOCAC would be in progress, and on the morning of the third day, there will be a high level dialogue meeting expected between Chinese and African leaders and business representatives during the sixth conference of Chinese and African entrepreneurs.
The Chinese President Xi Jinping will address the opening ceremony of the summit. After the meetings, there will be a welcome banquet and evening gala of the summit, hosted by the Chinese president and his wife, Professor Peng. It is expected that President Buhari and his wife will attend.
Earlier, during the 2018 Forum on China-Nigeria Production Capacity and Investment Cooperation held in Abuja recently, the Chinese ambassador to Nigeria had stated that under the joint efforts of China and Africa, the FOCAC Beijing Summit would surely become another historic event to strengthen China-Africa solidarity and cooperation.
He listed some of the infrastructural projects being handled by Chinese firms.
“In Nigeria, the Abuja-Kaduna railway, Africa’s first modern railway with Chinese technology and standards, was commissioned in July 2016. The Abuja rail mass transit project, the first urban railway in West Africa, was commissioned in July 2018. The Lagos-Ibadan railway broke ground in March 2017. The construction of the Lekki deep water port, the largest port in West Africa, and the Zungeru hydropower station, the largest hydropower station in Nigeria, are well under way,” he said.
The Ambassador added that China remains committed to enhancing its cooperation with Nigeria in agriculture, manufacturing, industrial capacity and investment, infrastructure, energy, culture and people-to-people exchanges, among others.
“It is our firm belief that President Buhari’s attendance at the upcoming FOCAC Beijing Summit will make important contribution to China-Africa cooperation and bring about new opportunities to grow China-Nigeria ties,” he said.
Jean Monet chair professor at Renmin University of China, Wang Yiwei, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, pointed out that his country had a lot to offer its African partners such as the Chinese experience through building of infrastructure, industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, poverty alleviation, African Union 2063 and United Nations 2040 sustainable development goals, which China would support.
“As for the summit, I think we can have more investments, more ideas and more projects on the basis of the 2015 Johannesburg 10-point plan,” he said.
And since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is interwoven with this year’s summit, its philosophy was aptly described by Professor Wang during a lecture at Darwin through popular Chinese sayings, “Give a man a fish and he eats for one day. Teach a man how to fish and he can eat forever. Give a man a chicken and he has a choice. He can make chicken soup, or he can save the chicken, collect the eggs, raise more chickens, have more eggs and also have chicken soup.”
In other words, the connectivity, the roads which the BRI aims for, will lead to long term development along these lines, which, in turn, would be beneficial to all.
A political analyst and senior fellow at the Pangoal Institution, Qinduo Xu, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said that the summit was a good opportunity for both sides to advance their interests in a collaborative manner, an effort that would further strengthen ties.
“After the Beijing Summit, there’ll be China’s first International Import Expo in Shanghai; Nigerian businesses should not miss the opportunity to exhibit their products and services to the Chinese traders and consumers.
“China is predicted to be the largest retail market this year, overtaking the United States. By exporting more to China, there’ll be more jobs and better income for local people,” he said.
Qinduo indicated that there would be a review of progress made in the past three years under the 10-point cooperation plans proposed at FOCAC in Johannesburg in 2015. He noted that it was about how China and Africa could work together even better, based on the needs and national development goals of each other.
“From China’s own experience, from a poor country to world’s second largest economy, foreign investment plays an important role in national development by not only creating jobs but also boosting revenues,” he said.
In his view, the focus of the summit will be what China and African countries are going to do for the next three years and as such the leaders will work out areas of priority and key sectors for both sides to work on and invest in.
China has advantages in agriculture, infrastructure, construction and manufacturing sector, while African countries have their own strengths, including rich natural resources, for cooperation to thrive between the two sides.
“There’s a need to focus on cultivating the capability for Africa to develop on its own, which will be sustainable and long-term, and speeding up the industrialisation and modernisation process by taking advantage of the trend that some of Chinese manufacturing are shifting overseas, and there’s growing outbound investment from China,” he said.
Qinduo further noted that, in President Xi’s keynote speech, he is expected to elaborate on new ideas and initiatives in reinforcing China-Africa relationship, and new measures and actions to deepen the cooperation between the two sides.
“In addition, there’ll be more proposals and plans to boost people-to-people exchanges between China and African countries. The bond between peoples are the solid foundation for China-Africa relationship to go deeper and further. In this sense, it may be easier to understand why the two sides are committed to the building of a China-Africa community of shared future.
“China-Africa relationship has been strong and progresses have been made over the past decades. But there’s tremendous potential to be tapped for an even better future for our countries and peoples. The Beijing summit will prove to be another important step in upgrading the ties between China and Africa,” he said.
In terms of China’s relationship with Nigeria, Qinduo points out that it has been fruitful as evidenced in the Abuja-Kaduna railway, the Abuja rail mass transit project and other projects. He urged Nigeria to do more to better understand the Belt and Road Initiative so as to take advantage of it and build the necessary infrastructure to unleash the huge development potential of the country.
“As the largest country in Africa, Nigeria could play an active role in BRI cooperation, to seize the opportunities at the FOCAC to draw more investment in agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing, energy and other areas,” he disclosed.
The director, China Africa Press Centre (CAPC), Chen Zhe, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said regarding the Summit, “Of course, as an ordinary Chinese citizen who has contributed to the media exchange between China and African countries, I expect more people-to-people exchange in the field of press, to see more connection in the form of CAPC have birth after Beijing Summit.”
He further stressed that FOCAC would announce solid plans in several domains where both parties can promote the China-Africa relationship.
“But as the saying goes, the basis of bilateral relations is the social and cultural communication. As such, in this regard, I do hope more and more African media friends as well as Chinese homologues can visit and even live for a long time in China or Africa in order to convey a more vivid and true story about China and Africa to their readers.”
A senior correspondent with China Daily, China’s leading English language newspaper, Andrew Moody, who will be reporting from the meeting, said the summit could be a key one.
“Everybody will be looking for pointers as to how the relationship between China and the continent is now going to develop.
“With US President Donald Trump seemingly only wanting to refer to African countries in disparaging terms, Africa is increasingly seeing China as the more important future partner,” he said
Moody, who attended the Johannesburg summit in 2015, said one thing to watch out for is any announcements about Africa and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“This could be more important than the total aid figure, which normally attracts most of the attention. This could be the summit in which Africa becomes fully part of this initiative, which may in turn lead to even greater infrastructure investment across the continent.”
Moody also believes there is a growing sense of partnership between China and Africa.
“Both China – in its confident new era under Chinese President Xi Jinping – and Africa believe that the future belongs to them. They are not looking backwards, like some in the West, and therefore they have much to gain by working together in an increasingly deep and strategic way.”
Similarly, a CCTV reporter based in Beijing, Huang Rui, stated that the summit is one of the most important events in China this year.
“It’s a good chance for African countries to enhance their traditional friendship with China, adding to it mutual trust.
“It’s a win-win cooperation. Many leaders from African countries will attend the summit. China would hope to discuss lots of problems with its partners. China would like to deliver a message that, ‘We are together, we will share development together,” Rui added.
She further said that the Summit would be focused on people to people exchanges, which will allow Chinese and Africans to easily visit each other’s countries. The summit would help to facilitate visas and flights.
The president of the China Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria and managing director of CGC Nigeria Ltd, Engr Ye Shuijin, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the coming summit would be an important and beneficial one for Nigeria and China.
“The coming 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will be held in Beijing, which is a very important and all-dimensional platform for the cooperation between China and African countries in the field of industrialisation, agricultural modernisation infrastructure, finance, green development, trade and investment, poverty reduction, public health, culture peace and security.
“As one of the largest African countries, Nigeria has enormous demand and opportunity in the area of infrastructure, agriculture, industry, etc. Meanwhile, China has the advantages of technology, management, finance and so on. Both countries can deepen governmental level exchanges and cooperation in the areas mentioned above for inclusive growth through FOCAC.
“With the opening of 7th FOCAC, more and more Chinese private enterprises and fund will be guided and encouraged to African countries, especially Nigeria, for investment and business in the areas of power, agricultural processing and so on.
“Meanwhile, there is also more cooperation opportunities for Nigerian enterprises and fund to participate and promote the development and exportation of local products.
“We believe with joint efforts of China and all African countries in all levels, the theme, ‘Towards an even stronger China-African Community with a Shared Future,’ can be achieved fruitfully.”
The director, Centre for China Studies (CCS) in Abuja, Nigeria, Mr Charles Onunaiju, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said, “Nigeria has a privileged position in China relations because in 2010 China proclaimed Nigeria a strategic partner, a privilege extended to only three African countries – Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt.”
On Nigeria’s performance generally when it comes to China, he said, “It is up to Nigeria to engage more forcefully, not only using the FOCAC summit, but the Belt and Road Initiative. It’s up to Nigeria to seize the moment.”
He urged Nigeria to take advantage of what BRI offers in terms of infrastructure and connectivity, fully engage in the project and capitalise on the funds offered for development.
He stared that a number of Chinese companies were relocating to Africa, and Nigeria is naturally a chosen destination given its market size, however Nigeria needs to resolve its domestic issues.
“It needs to give policy incentives and an enabling environment,” he said.
The benefits of Nigeria’s relationship with China appear to be many. Onunaiju elaborated that the Summit will address agricultural modernisation as, according to the original FOCAC agreement of 2015, China promised to support Africa to improve her agriculture. As a result to this, there are over 500 agricultural experts from China in different parts of Africa currently helping farmers to improve their seedlings and yields which are vital to food security and agri-business in Nigeria and Africa in general.
“Instead of seasonal farming, they will assist to produce seedlings that will help towards all-round farming, and there has been results.
“Recently the Nigerian seed council commended the Chinese agricultural experts that are helping to improve the variety of rice we are planting, its yield especially.
“Agriculture has been the foundation for growing industries. I think this is where the Chinese are making great changes in Africa – helping us to improve our agriculture and set up industries that would not only process, but also add value to some of these agricultural products.
“There is no doubt that the outcome of FOCAC 2018 will increase, strengthen and improve this process that is already in place, giving further impetus to food security and agricultural modernisation.
“Given what is already happening in terms of improving and modernising our agriculture, we can expect much more from the outcome of the 2018 FOCAC.”
Onunaiju noted Africa could receive more funds from this year’s summit, stating that China could offer Africa $100 billion in funding to modernise its infrastructure and improve its agriculture to generally change the continent’s landscape.
Speaking on stability in Nigeria, Onunaiju said security had always been a part of China – Africa Cooperation as China fights insecurity in a holistic way.
“The Chinese concept of security is not simply buying guns; they believe that security is worsened by poverty and unemployment. The more you create economic opportunities, the more people are less vulnerable to activities that create insecurity.
“It is about generating employment to engage the youths productively and make them less vulnerable to acts that would lead to violence.”
As to other benefits that could emanate from the summit, he said, “This meeting alone has been a beehive of activities for Africa with global leaders paying attention from the west, which was not the case.
“Before now, we were on the fringes. Now China-Africa relations has put Africa on the spotlight; everybody wants to have a piece of the action in Africa.
“With this kind of exposure, we can expect formidable outcomes that will continue producing cooperation between Nigeria and China.
“The Lekki deep sea port is almost concluded, the Zungeru hydro electricity power plant is also almost concluded. We can expect more on these key infrastructure projects. The Mambilla power plant is also under construction, Lagos- Ibadan, Abuja -Kano railway line is also under construction.
“We are looking forward to a generous support from Beijing, to support some of these key infrastructure projects.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will also feature prominently at the Summit. BRI will connect at least 65 countries, covering 63 percent of the world’s population and 29 percent of global GDP. The African part of BRI is said by experts to be a work in progress.
Countries set to benefit include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Egypt. BRI will further solidify China as Africa’s trade partner.
The BRI is said to be the modern version of the ancient Silk Route that spanned several years ago in 138 BC. It is said to have already kicked off as shown in the infrastructural development that developing countries enjoy from China.
President Xi had previously stressed the importance of FOCAC, indicating that its partnership was based on five pillars: political equality and mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, security cooperation and mutual assistance, and solidarity and coordination in international affairs.
FOCAC was set up in 2000 through the joint initiative of China and African countries and, through it, several projects across Africa have been delivered, with a $60 billion fund made available.
The key themes of the FOCAC 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).
In May 2015, President Xi and President Muhammadu Buhari met on the sidelines of the summit marking the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations in New York and the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit. Both spoke about deepening cooperation between both countries.
Ever since, bilateral economic activities and trade relations have increased. Since then, Nigeria has become China’s principal market for engineering project contracting, its second main export market, and third major trading partner and investment destination in Africa.