Nigeria’s development strides received a major boost yesterday in Abuja as China recommitted itself to working with the federal government to transform the country’s security, social and economic landscapes.

The fresh assurance from the Chinese government came from the Asian Nation’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian.

He said that the government of the Peoples Republic of China is prepared to collaborate with Nigeria to step up connectivity, expand the integration of development, deepen people-to-people understanding, and enhance security cooperation.

Such collaboration, according to the envoy, would produce more tangible Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation benefits to both countries and their citizens.

In his remarks at the Abuja Beijing Consensus (ABC) Roundtable Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Abuja yesterday, Zhou said that as the largest developing country in the world, China, values its strategic partnership with Nigeria, which is also the largest developing country in Africa. Zhou said that the cordial relationship between China and Nigeria is at its best in history.

He disclosed that on October 1, this year, “we are going to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. On the same day, Nigeria will celebrate its 59th Independence Day. China and Nigeria have always been a community with a shared future.”

The envoy said that in June, the coordinators’ meeting of the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Beijing Summit of the FOCAC will be held in Beijing to facilitate prompt and efficient implementation of the eight major initiatives.

Ambassador Zhou added that ‘‘we stand ready to work with Nigeria to step up connectivity, expand integration of development, deepen people-to-people understanding and enhance security cooperation, so as to bring more tangible BRI cooperation benefits to our two countries and peoples.

‘‘The first edition of the Abuja Beijing Consensus (ABC) roundtable under the theme ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ comes just at the right time. From April 25 to 27, the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRE) was held in Beijing, with the presence of many Nigerian friends.

Some of the speakers had the first-hand experience at the BRF.

‘‘All of you follow the Belt and Road Initiative closely. We are very interested to listen to your fresh ideas today,’’ he said.

Zhou explained that this year’s forum with the theme: ‘Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future’ with 38 heads of state or government including Chinese President Xi Jinping, the United Nations (UN) secretary-general among others, joined the big gathering.

He said that over 6,000 foreign guests from 150 countries and 92 international organisations participated in the forum, adding that “It was very fruitful and 283 deliverable were achieved.”

The envoy further said that ‘‘business representatives signed project cooperation agreements worth more than S$64 billion. Let me make some points regarding the second BRF: First, high-quality was the keyword.

The participants reaffirmed their commitment to promoting high-quality development of the Belt and Road cooperation.

“The BRI must be open, green and clean, follow a high standard, people-centred and sustainable approach and builds synergy among policies, rules, and standards.

To that end, we launched a number of initiatives during the forum, such as the debt sustainability framework for the BRI participating countries, the Beijing Initiative for the clean Silk Road, the Green Investment Principles for the BRI development and the Cooperation Initiative on Silk Road of Innovation.

‘‘Second, the idea of building a global partnership on connectivity was widely supported. An important approach is to forge synergies between the BRI and other countries’ development initiatives, as well as regional and global development agendas.

During the forum, China signed over 100 bilateral and multilateral cooperation documents with the relevant countries and international organisations. Some countries and international financial institutions signed documents on third-market cooperation with China.

‘‘Third, a broad structure of the Belt and Road Cooperation has come into being, led by the BRF and supported by sectorial cooperation initiatives. The joint communiqué of the Leaders’ Roundtable points out that we envisage the BRF on regular basis with possible follow-up events. During this forum, in addition to bilateral and trilateral cooperation, multilateral cooperation platforms have been set up in over 20 sectors,’’ he said.

He added that the Belt and Road cooperation is entering a new stage, bringing enormous opportunities to promote high-quality BRI cooperation between China and Nigeria.

BRI Viable Strategy For International Cooperation Amb Wali In his address at the event, Nigeria’s former minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, described BRI as one of the most viable and robust strategies for international cooperation and addressing practical issues of connectivity within and across nations of the world.

Wali, who once served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China, said that six years after it was announced at the National University in Kazakhstan by President Xi Jinping as a new strategy of international cooperation, BRI has promoted inclusion by harnessing achievements in science and technology to address developmental needs particularly in developing countries.

He said that Africa is at the epicenter of an emerging trend where resources are being utilised to fill the existential deficit of critical development needs such as transport, power and telecommunications infrastructure.

Wali stated that Nigeria as one of Africa’s largest emerging markets with a huge potential for further economic expansion should be at the forefront of Africa’s greater engagement with BRI framework to fast-track its national development and ensure its place as the continent’s foremost economy and investment destination.

He continued: ‘‘Since the action plan of BRI was rolled out, key infrastructure projects have sprung up in Africa driven primarily by the BRI’s concessional funding model, making it easier for more low-income nations to participate in the Initiative without overburdening their national treasuries while considerably accelerating their developmental agendas for the betterment of their people.

Through this financial model, Chinese companies have embarked on numerous infrastructural projects the likes of Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway in Ethiopia which is the first electrified railway corridor in Africa Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya, Abuja-Kaduna railway in Nigeria and many others including the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano railway now under construction.

In the maritime sector, projects such as the port of Bagamoyo in Tanzania, Lekki Deep Sea Port in Nigeria as well as a host of others have been successfully completed with others under construction by various Chinese firms.

These ports have all been strategically sited to take advantage of existing road infrastructure and in other cases industrial parks thereby significantly impacting on the economic development of the Coastal areas of Africa.

‘‘As part of BRI’s strategy to Africa’s economic recovery and sustainable growth, a number of power plants have been built across the continent as well as the construction of industrial parks.

As at the end of 2016, China under BRI has set up 20 industrial parks in 15 African countries, including Nigeria, with accumulated investments of $5.38 billion, attracting more than 450 enterprises with an accumulated value output of $19.35 billion that has contributed $1.62 billion to the revenues of the host countries in taxes and fees,” he said.

Wali asserted that these activities had created over 33,000 jobs and brought about industrial clustering in pertinent areas, adding that through this industrialisation process, China has enabled the host countries to attract direct foreign investment in manufacturing, promoting the industrialisation process, increasing revenue, job creation, spurring socio-economic development and ultimately improving the living standards of the people.’’

The Belt and Road framework of International Cooperation, according to Wali had brought dynamism and opens a fresh vista in the phenomenal cooperation between China and Africa.

He stressed that the historic deficit in Africa’s regional efforts to build economies of scale and find a niche in the global industrial value chain had found complementary response in the mechanism of the formidable Forum on China Africa Cooperation but would more strategically absorb the opportunities of China’s global distribution of industrial production capacity under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

‘‘The African and Chinese leadership that gathered in Beijing last September captured very succinctly the strategic vigour unleashed in their extent cooperation by the dynamic component of BRI and, therefore, went on to integrate it in their existing mechanism of multilateral engagement,’’ he added.

BRI will Take China/Nigeria Relationship to Next Level – Hon Yakub

Also at the event, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria/China Relations, Yusuf Buba Yakub, said that BRI should be considered as China’s attempt to take its practical cooperation with Nigeria to the next level.

Yakub said that with the conclusion of the signing of the BRI agreement in Beijing during the second round of the Belt and Road Forum last month, Nigeria is certainly poised to be the next viable destination for China’s foreign investments in view of its economic potential.

The Nigerian lawmaker said that this year marks the 48th year of the uninterrupted bilateral relations between China and Nigeria. He said:

‘‘This almost five-decade-old relationship has witnessed the simultaneous economic growth of both countries which boasts of many shared similarities. Within this period, China’s presence was most visible in the export/import trade sector of the economy.

“However, within the last two decades, China has complemented its trade relations with Nigeria with massive foreign direct investment in key sectors of the economy which include manufacturing, agriculture, mining, construction, oil, and gas amongst others,’’ he said.

Yakub noted that with the formation of the Forum for China African Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2006 in Beijing, Chinese foreign investment in Nigeria took a centre stage.

He said that since then, Nigeria has tapped significantly into the gains of China’s development, especially in areas of rail and road infrastructure.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping was another landmark in consolidating China’s pivotal role in enhancing the global multilateral trade system.

The crafters of BRI set out with a well-articulated ambition in which the aim is to enhance connectivity and cooperation among China’s long-standing trade partners.

‘‘Also, BRI is about jointly meeting various challenges and risks confronting mankind and delivering win-win outcomes and common development,’’ he said.

He further stated that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari keyed into this noble vision during the last Forum for China Africa Cooperation summit in Beijing in 2018.

‘‘It was an epoch meeting in which the federal government of Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road Initiative,’’ he said.

Nda-Isaiah Hails Chinese Leaders For Making Country Economic Power In his speech, the chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group, Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, had kind words for former and current Chinese leaders for making the country a world economic power.

Nda Isaiah, who is also the chairman of the Abuja Beijing Consensus (ABC) Roundtable, said that it is a private sector-led think-tank created by forward-looking Nigerians and Chinese living in both countries.

According to him, the higher aim of the group is to be the bridge builder that is engaged in deepening China-Nigeria relationship, between their peoples in the areas of governance, business, politics, security, education, among others.

While disclosing that ABC will operate chiefly at the policy level, taking the full advantages created by the two countries, he added that it will operate at the government-to-government level and at the decision-making level.

Nda-Isaiah, who stated that China is Asia’s largest economy and the world’s largest country, added that it is also the second largest economy in the world and the largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).

Nigeria, he added, is Africa’s biggest economy, its most populated nation, and its intellectual hub. He said that China and Nigeria consider themselves developing nations “and as Ambassador Pingjian never ceases to remind me, in 1978, China and Nigeria were at par in all material indices.”

Nda-Isaiah said that “the global economic order now points towards three fronts, and nations would have to decide which direction to take. There is the American frontier led by the United States, the European frontier headed by the European Union, and the China frontier headed of course by China. China is building an intimidating portfolio of friendships around the world based on win-win cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare and others.

“The Chinese model of engagement with others appears attractive, especially to the developing countries because it does not interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. The Abuja Beijing Consensus intends to be the engine and catalyst of these win-win engagements between Nigeria and China, taking into consideration that China is by far the largest investor in infrastructure in the world today.

“The peaceful rise of China has been something of a fascination to the world. The three core leaders of China Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping have totally altered the trajectory of the world that they met.

“Mao brought China together and restored its dignity and gravitas after it had been defeated and humiliated one after another by all the world powers of the time.  

Deng took over the reins in 1978 and, through a tectonic shift in policy, released the pent-up potential of China’s economic power; and because of what he did, China overtook the whole of Europe, one after another, and then Japan to become the second largest economy in the world in record time.

It now has the United States in its sights. “It is because of the change of guard in 1978 that the economy of the entire world reached the record high that we have today. “Deng is generally considered the most brilliant leader of the 20th Century.

In 2013, the third core leader, Xi Jinping, took over; in 2016, he was officially declared a core leader, a status only Mao and Deng before him had enjoyed. “And it is not difficult to see why: While Mao brought China together and restored its dignity, Deng was the progenitor of China as a superpower by simple economic policies; Xi is currently lining up the world behind China in a win-win cooperation and under its leadership to create the greatest economic alliance the world has ever known,” he said.

Nda-Isaiah explained that BRI is a global development strategy of President Xi involving infrastructure development and investments that would eventually reach 152 countries of that world. He averred that the BRI is probably the most ambitious economic programme ever embarked upon by any government in the world, stressing that it has a completion date of 2049, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China.

He also pointed out that BRI will change the way the peoples of the world interact and it will create wealth affecting 65 per cent of the world’s population. Stating that President Xi Jinping is arguably the most distinguished world leader today, Nda-Isaiah recalled that in 2018, Forbes magazine named him the world’s most powerful leader.

According to him, “I will not end this address without placing on record the tremendous friendship, brotherliness and support that Ambassador Zhou Pingjian has shown to Nigeria since he was deployed here. Ambassador Zhou, a well-educated man, has always gone beyond the call of duty to bring the two countries closer, and he has succeeded excellently. “On the ambassador’s watch, China has subconsciously been elevated by the political and governing elite of this country to the status of a special friend.

Ambassador Zhou makes it very seamless to accept the concept of One China. You feel that sentiment anytime our President gets the opportunity to speak about China. For us Nigerians, Ambassador Zhou Pingjian is a core Ambassador. Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. I just hope you will be in Nigeria for many more years to come,” Nda-Isaiah stated.

Nigeria-China Think Tank Underway As the Chinese-inspired BRI gathers steam, the need for a think-tank to enable Nigeria benefit maximally from the initiative has been advocated. This formed part of the communiqué issued at the end of the one day ABC Roundtable held at the International Conference Centre (ICC), yesterday.

The roundtable, which is the first in its series, advocated for a sustained positive attitude in strengthening and sustaining China-Nigeria relationship. According to the communique, this will require building mechanisms for sustained commitment and discipline. In other words, a massive cultural and attitudinal re-orientation is needed.

The meeting acknowledged that the bright future for China-Nigeria cooperation, with high prospects for win-win cooperation. The need for the sustenance of the roundtable was emphasized so as to encourage Nigeria to have development plans that will provide the roadmap for research and development in line with the African Union Agenda 2063. “While there exists Africa-China think-tank, we must also have in place a Nigeria-China think-tank, like body of Professor Intellectual.

The role of this body will be to liaise with relevant research institutions and agencies that will continuously articulate policies and programmes that will integrate Nigeria into BRI for desired progress and development,” the communiqué added. “The discussants also believe in addressing infrastructural and energy deficit in Africa, and particularly, in Nigeria, which critically affects industrialisation. It affects our inability to move our people out of poverty like China has vowed to do by 2020.

“We have also discussed the challenge of capacity building for our people for inclusive development for our shared future, and how the BRI has benefited other countries, especially African countries.”

It was also the consensus among discussants that the Nigerian government must come up with robust policies to enable the people own the process. Prof. Joseph Golwa, who reviewed the rundown of the discussion, said: “The whole discussion can be summarised within the context of the words of Chinese President at the ASEAN Summit in 2018.

“The BRI is a plan in the sunshine. Sunshine means brightness, which drives away darkness. It guides and shows us the right path to follow, instead of groping in the dark. Sunshine also means openness and transparency. BRI is something that is done in the open, not in a hidden manner, nor BRI having any ulterior motives. Sunshine has mutual vitamins that are healthy and beneficial to all, irrespective of culture and environment.”

According to Golwa, this explains the importance of all the points the discussants have made on the advantages and mutual benefits of BRI with respect to connectivity of peoples and cultures. The roundtable noted that as a matter of principle, the decision of the Chinese regarding the BRI as strategy of implementing FOCAC goals is because they believe, globally, the successes and progress of others is intrinsically tied to their progress.

The roundtable was commended as a worthy and timely forum, especially as the convener and founder of the LEADERSHIP Group, Nda-Isaiah, explained that the aim is to craft a unique consensus and framework different from others: one that will bear Nigeria-China characteristics.

The roundtable commended Dr Zhou for his commitment to solidifying and strengthening the Nigeria-China relations, particularly, his commitment in seeing Nigeria’s proper integration into BRI.

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.