By INNOCENT ODOH, Abuja
Nigeria has been ranked first among China’s top 40 trading partners globally and its major investment destination in Africa as the Sino-Nigeria bilateral ties clock 50 years tomorrow.
Deputy Ambassador of China, Zhao Yong, made this known during a news conference in Abuja yesterday as parts of activities to commemorate 50 years of bilateral relations between both countries, even as he described China-Nigeria ties as a pacesetter in China-Africa cooperation.
He said that Nigeria has surpassed Angola and South Africa to become China’s second largest trading partner and largest export market in Africa.
The Chinese envoy said the volumes of trade between both countries have continued to grow amid the adverse effect of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.
“In 2019, the trade volume between China and Nigeria reached 19.27 billion US dollars, which was 1,900 times that of 1971 when the diplomatic relationship was first established.
“And the bilateral trade growth rate is ranking first among China’s top trading partners in the world.
“Despite the adverse effects of the COVID-19, the bilateral trade volume from January to October 2020 increased by 0.7 per cent year on year, which was 14 per cent higher than the trade growth rate between China and Africa as a whole.
“The Ogun-Guandong Free Trade Zone and Lekki Free Trade Zone have attracted a large number of Chinese companies to invest and operate in their businesses.
“The infrastructure projects built jointly by the two countries such as roads, ports and airport terminals can be seen everywhere,” Zhao said.
Zhao said further that the China-Nigeria bilateral relations have elevated to a strategic partnership with practical cooperations in various fields yielding fruitful results
He added that in the past fifty years, the exchanges between China and Nigeria in the areas of culture, health and security have been increasingly dynamic.
He noted that in 2019, the number of Nigeria students studying in China rose to 6,800, which stands first in all African countries.
On the COVID-19 Pandemic, Zhao said China provided timely medical aid to Nigeria in three batches and shared its experiences on epidemic prevention and control with the Nigerian government.
The Chinese envoy said that his country will continue to assist Nigeria to strengthen the anti-pandemic cooperation until the pandemic is eradicated.
The Deputy Ambassador said 2021 is a crucial year for China-Nigeria relations, which was underscored by the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi in January, adding that this was a testament of the importance China attaches to its ties with Nigeria.
He said that during the official visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister, both countries jointly formulated a blueprint to boost bilateral cooperations in the next fifty years. He stressed that China is committed to support Nigeria to safeguard its development interest, security, and safeguard its national sovereignty.
He said, “China is ready to deepen the Belt and Road Cooperation; speed up the construction of key projects so as to help Nigeria accelerate the process of industralisation.
“Explore the cooperation in the areas of digital economy and green economy; expand military and security cooperation with a view to enhance Nigeria’s capacity of safeguarding national security.
“And closely coordinate with each other on regional and international affairs to safeguard the common interests of developing countries,” Zhao said.