As China marks 20 years of the Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Nigeria is encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the forum whose achievements are being revisited, to further develop the country, and strengthen bilateral ties, BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
Bilateral relations between Africa and China span across decades. February next year would be 50 years of Nigeria-China relations.
China has been and continues to grow strong. Presently the second largest economy and fastest developing nation, China has stood its ground supporting the Nigerian
federal government through projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to develop infrastructure, presently lacking in the country.
We look at evidence of this development through projects such as the Abuja-Kaduna Railway, Abuja Metro Light Rail, Abuja and Port Harcourt Airport terminals, Lekki Free Trade Zones, Ogun – Guangdong, Zungeru Hydro Power plant, University of Transportation, Daura among others. While some of these projects have been completed, others are in the pipeline and on the path of completion.
It has not all been a rosy journey as there have been speculations spiced with suspicions of China’s true intentions towards Nigeria. Nevertheless, China has moved on, unperturbed in its bid to support the country’s development. China is a country that believes in action rather than words.
And while others have determinedly sipped the Cool-aid of doubt, the fact still remains that China has placed itself in a position of trust and has delivered and will continue to deliver on projects to develop Nigeria as well as ease lives of its citizens.
What has been accomplished so far by the Asian country, without ill will or incertitude is proof of China’s willingness and commitment to work with Nigeria for mutual benefit that will eventually lead to a win-win situation.
This cooperation is all part of China’s BRI project, to link the world through infrastructure, trade, security and people to people exchange among others.
However, Nigeria ought not to stop at its engagement with China as regards the BRI project, but seek to take advantage of the FOCAC funding for further development.
The Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is another way of China extending a hand of friendship to Nigeria.
FOCAC was established in 2000 and its first meeting was held in the capital city of Bejing, in China, and for next year 2021, the forum is scheduled to take place in February with Senegal as host country.
In his keynote address at the opening ceremony of 2018 FOCAC, President Xi has said that China will further strengthen its relationship with Africa through its eight (8) initiative plan.
The initiatives will be on the basis of the ten cooperation plans adopted at previous FOCAC meeting, held in 2015, Johannesburg, South Africa, and will span across the next three years, and beyond.
To guarantee that these eight initiatives are implemented, China will extend another US$60 billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies.
This will include US$15 billion of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion of credit lines, the setting up of a US$10 billion special fund for development financing and a US$5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.
The eight initiatives will consist of Industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, People to people exchange and peace and security.
China will also support Africa to achieve food security by 2030, and assist in Agriculture modernisation.
According to the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a report, “The past twenty years have been a journey of productive cooperation. FOCAC has bolstered high level interactions and political trust between China and Africa, delivering a leap in China- Africa relations from ä new type of partnership”and to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership.
“The past twenty years have been a journey of overcoming challenges and enhancing partnerships. FOCAC has withstood the test of the volatile international landscape, and scored historic achievements. It is a vivid epitome of China’s pioneering efforts in foreign affairs under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. It is also a source of aspiration for further growth of China-Africa relations.
“China is the largest developing country and the African continent home to the largest number of developing countries. When China-Africa cooperation prospers, South-South cooperation will prosper. When the voice of the 2.6 billion people in China and Africa are heeded and respected, the world will have genuine fairness and justice.
“From the very beginning, we have always taken China-Africa relations as part of South-South cooperation, and have advanced FOCAC in the spirit of solidarity and cooperation. FOCAC, composed of China and 53 African countries and the AU, is by no means “one vs. 54”, but “54 plus one”. We would sit down in consultation whenever there is an issue, and solve it through discussion. And that is the guiding principle for our conduct. China never interferes in African countries’ pursuit of development paths that suit their own national conditions, never imposes its will upon others, never attaches any political strings to its assistance, and never seeks selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation,” he stated.
Recently, the Centre for China Studies (CCS) with support from the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, marked 20 years of the Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). In commemoration of the event, a round table dialogue was held at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Abuja. The event was tagged : Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) at 20 Years: Achievements And Prospects.
The Charge d’Affaire of the Chinese Embassy, Zhao Yong, in his opening remarks said, “This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). On October 12, President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Mackey Sall, the current African Co-Chair of FOCAC, exchanged congratulatory messages, demonstrating the importance China and Africa attaches to this forum.
“The past twenty years have been a journey of productive cooperation between China and Africa. In 2019, direct Chinese investment stock in Africa topped US$49.1 billion , up by nearly 100 times from the year 2000; China-Africa trade reached US $208.7 billion, 20 times the size of 2000. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row, and has contributed more than 20 percent to Africa’s growth for a number of years. Cooperation in other fields, from technology, education , culture, health, people-to-people exchange, peace and security, is also making significant headway.
The Zhao further noted that in 2020, China and Africa fought the COVID-19 pandemic together with solidarity and cooperation, showing a rock-steady brotherhood and magnificent unity.
He said that China has delivered more than 400 tons of critically needed medical supplies to 53 African countries and the AU, and has also dispatched public health experts to 15 African countries.
Zhao indicated that 46 hospitals from 42 African countries have affirmed to attend the cooperation mechanism to pair up with Chinese hospitals, and that the Chinese government and the AU Commission had already signed an agreement in July for constructing the headquarters building of the Africa Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention.
“Nigeria remains China’s largest project-contracting market, largest export market, second largest trading partner, and major investment destination in Africa. In 2019, the bilateral trade volume was $19.27 billion with an annual increase of 26.3 per cent which came first among China’s top 40 trading partners.
“ People to people exchanges have been thriving. In 2019, the number of Nigerian students studying in China rose to 6800, which stands first in all African countries. Many of them have been covered by a wide variety of scholarships.
“As next February marks the 50th anniversary China- Nigeria diplomatic relations and the FOCAC meeting to be held in Senegal in 2021, China is ready to work with Nigeria to speed up the implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and to strengthen the Belt and Road cooperation in an effort to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples,” the Charge d’affaire stated.
The director, Centre for Chinese Studies, Mr Charles Onunaiju, urged the Nigerian government to take advantage of funds made available by FOCAC. “The essence of the programme is to interrogate the FOCAC process and see how far it has gone. There’s almost a unanimity that it has delivered practical results to both sides. China has benefited from the African window of diplomatic support. Africa has also benefitted from China’s physical intervention in areas that are very very important to our economic discovery. Infrastructure network, facilities and concessional loans, so it’s been a win-win for the two sides.
“The journey 20 years, we thought is worth interrogating, worth commenting. We believe 20 years has been fruitful and we think another 100 years or more is still greater vitality in China, Africa cooperation. So, the whole essence is to interrogate FOCAC at 20, examine its achievements and process,” he averred.
In 2019, reports state that two-way trade between China and Nigeria reached 19.27 billion US dollars, a huge leap at about 1900 times as at when relations between both countries was established in 1971.
the trade growth rate was 26.3 per cent ranking first among China’s top 40 trading partners. China’s imports from Nigeria increased by 43.1 percent.
To date, China has provided about 120,000 government scholarships to African countries; has set up 61 Confucius Institutes and 44 Confucius Classrooms in collaboration with 46 African countries and sent 21,000 doctors and nurses in medical teams to 48 African countries, treating around 220 million African patients. China has also established alliances with 150 pairs of sister cities in Africa among others.