China’s inroad into Africa is coming at such a great speed that even Western countries are worried over Chinese growing economic and cultural influence in Africa. The Confucius centres are springing up in many institutions of higher learning in Africa and many Africans are studying Chinese language and culture.

China is using the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to foster commercial and cultural relationships in the world. It believes that the special relationship that has existed between Nigeria and China, over the years, makes it easy for Nigeria to naturally fall in line with the initiative.

In ancient times, the Silk Road was a trade route running through vast golden deserts, linking China to its neighbours, building friendships along the way, encouraging pilgrimage, promoting trade. The links established those thousand years ago, are part of the benefits already being felt in present times.

The idea and target of the BRI is to support development along the Belt and Road route, which characteristically encompasses land and maritime. The idea that it would benefit just countries directly on the geographical route of the BRI map has become a false premise as the China intends to carry the globe along. This is why the Federal government of Nigeria is being encouraged to take advantage of this promising initiative and participate fully.

China is offering scholarships to Africans to study the Chinese language and other courses. It appears that China is fast replacing Euro/American influence in Africa. Many African countries, including Nigeria are looking up to China for economic, cultural and educational cooperation.

Such should be expected because many Africans strongly believe that Europe has not treated Africa on equal basis in their various encounters. Africa’s meeting with Europe has led to slave trade, colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism. Some critics believe that even globalisation is part of the domination ideology.  In all these phases, Africa is treated as the junior partner. African cultures suffered terribly under European colonisation.

Therefore, the new interest in Afro-Sino relations should be understood bearing in mind the aforementioned sour points in Afro/Euro relations. African countries are today looking up to China for what they could not easily get from Europe and America.

The initiative primarily covered East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and East Central Europe. But by July 2016, more than 70 countries and international and regional organisations had shown support and willingness to take part in the BRI. This is with more than 30 countries and international organisations coming to agreement to work with China in developing BRI.

The roundtable was moderated by Prof Joseph A. Vice Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University; His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Edo State; Prof. Oluwatoyim T. Ogundipe, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos; Mr. Muda Yusuf, Director-General  of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mr. Ayoola Olukanmi, Director-General of NACCIMA and Dr. Monica Eimumjeze, Director of NAFDAC among others.

Despite assurance by Confucius Institute that Nigeria is in the map of the new China economic policy, speaker after speaker dwelt on what Nigeria is going to benefit from it. Some of them think that Nigeria is not captured in the road and rail components of the one belt, one road policy.

The topics discussed include educational cooperation, cultural relationships, economic/commercial cooperation, technological construction interests, medical and scientific understanding, information and computer technology exchanges, transportation, political and diplomatic relationship.

Also the Confucius Institute at University of Lagos, as a veritable tool for forging cooperation between the people of China and Nigeria “seeks cooperation with other bodies with similar objectives so as to synergise and present a more formidable platform for actualisation of shared objectives of Nigeria and China.”

According to Prof Joseph A, “this is geared towards expanding both the educational, socio-economic and diplomatic relations between Nigeria, the most populous country as well as the biggest economy in Africa, and China, the most populous country in the world as well as the world’s second biggest economy.”

Chai Xiaoliang, Consul General of China in Lagos said, the Belt and Road Initiative offers Nigeria an ideal platform and framework in conducting cooperation not only with China, but also with all participating countries.

“Through the platform of Belt and Road Initiative, Nigeria can obtain more opportunities to strengthen its infrastructure, diversify its economy and integrate itself into the world economy. With more initiatives, efficiency, willingness and proper forms of participation, Nigeria can take advantage of the Belt and Road Initiative as a strong driving force to help realise its own development strategy.”

According to him, its objective is to build trade routes between China and the countries in Central Asia, Europe and Indo-Pacific littoral countries, he said.