Despite the rampage and ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and its induced global economic downturn, trade volume between Nigeria and China has galloped to $20 billion after the year 2020 and is expected to maintain good growth momentum. , especially in 2022.
However, while Nigerians worry about the issue of trade imbalance between Nigeria and China, there are considerable gaps in the emotional narrative of the trade imbalance in favor of China. However, trade is one of the facets of the comprehensive and strategic partnership between Nigeria and China, and even within the framework of trade, there are enough grounds to cover to balance bilateral trade cooperation.
China has made efforts to close its trade gaps with its African partners by offering a huge non-tariff entry of products and services from the continent into its huge market. Over the past three years since 2018, China has held three import expos designed to provide access for foreign suppliers of goods and services to its huge market.
Nigeria and some selected African countries have been invited to these import expos to showcase their products and services to Chinese markets. Seizing such opportunities to access the Chinese market is a matter of preparation and initiatives by participating countries to explore the market and seize the opportunities it offers.
Specifically, following the results of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in September 2018, the Chinese side established the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, which has been held every year since then, in the city. China from Changsha, in the country region. central province of Hunan. The exhibition is specifically designed to provide access to the Chinese market for African products and services, and despite the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition has been held regularly and successfully since 2019, with the last one taking place in September. from last year. During the last expo, 135 deals worth $22.9 billion in various fields such as trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, aviation and tourism were concluded with success. Compared to 2019 when 700 companies participated in the Expo, the last edition in 2021 attracted 900 companies from over 40 countries including Nigeria.
Besides the business deals signed at the expo, 320 companies showcased their products at the event, bringing in $38.7 million in e-commerce. Although Nigeria was invited, it was six other African countries – Kenya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal which headlined the event and reported Africa’s vigor in catching up with opportunities to strengthen and bridge the gap in its trade and investment ties with China. Thanks to the mechanism of the economic and trade exhibition, more agricultural products from Africa enter the Chinese market, after the elimination of restrictive barriers to entry. Other raw materials from Africa, including oil, copper and iron, regularly enter the Chinese market.
At the exhibition last September, a wide range of African agricultural products ranging from Kenyan tea to Rwandan coffee to South African blueberries were on display. Kenya and China signed a formal agreement establishing a list of additional products to be exported to China, which included pulses, flowers, vegetables, meat, skins, herbs and fruits. Kenyan companies that participated in the expo reported a huge appetite from the Chinese market for African products.
Most of the products that other African countries have introduced to the Chinese market have reaped abundant benefits in the signed agreements; Locally traded goods are abundant in Nigeria, but there has been very little exposure of Nigerian businesses and companies to Chinese market opportunities. Relevant authorities in Nigeria have not made the best efforts to provide Nigerian companies with adequate exposure to the prospects of the huge Chinese market. While the dependence on buying from China is obviously palpable and reasonable under rational market conditions, the appetite to sell to China has a huge comparative advantage that can create the necessary balance in the bilateral trade of the two countries and Opportunities clearly abound for Nigeria to step up its engagement with China and fill the void of Chinese thirst for African products.
At the recently concluded 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference in Dakar, Senegal last November, Chinese leader President Xi Jinping outlined nine specific cooperation programs with Africa. In the third program, which is the promotion of trade, the Chinese leader proposed that “China will open ‘green channels’ for African agricultural exports to China, speed up inspection and quarantine procedures and further expand the range of products receiving duty-free treatment for least-developed countries with diplomatic relations with China, with the aim of reaching $300 billion in total imports from Africa over the next three years .
This means that the Chinese market will be ready to absorb goods, products and services from Africa worth 300 billion dollars over the next three years on a concessional basis by speeding up “procedures for inspection and quarantine with special “green lanes”, established to give practical expression to the process. In addition, China will offer $10 billion in trade finance to support Africa’s exports and will also build a frontier zone in China for in-depth trade and economic cooperation between China and Africa and a China-Africa industrial park for Belt and Road cooperation.The whole of this major initiative on the Chinese side offers prospects, not only to straighten out the issue of trade imbalance, but also to give the continent the advantage that China enjoyed more than 40 years ago when it began its journey of industrialization which earned it the nickname “the workshop of the world”. The fact is that as the opportunity to access the huge Chinese market is now offered to African countries, some will seize it and grab it by the jugular, and others will block and snort the opportunities. The question is which group would Nigeria belong to and how are Nigeria’s institutions and processes prepared and ready to seize opportunities like this.
In addition to trade promotion, the other eight programs, which include medicine and health, poverty reduction and agricultural development, investment promotion, digital innovation, green development, capacity building, trade cultural and people-to-people and the security of peace, clearly align with Africa and, in particular, Nigeria’s urgent imperative to survive and thrive in 2022 and beyond.
Nigeria has significant and strong bilateral relations with China, which is evident in the status of a strategic partnership, which Beijing has extended to just three African countries, including Nigeria.
Under China’s international cooperation framework, the Belt and Road Initiative, which includes infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, policy alignment and people-to-people cooperation around the world, the Nigeria is an important partner.
Nigeria’s main obstacle to engaging China’s historic opportunity is initiating a specific and focused policy framework, coupled with the political will to identify areas of engagement that could make the most significant contribution to the area. country’s priority for economic recovery and sustainable growth.
Already, China’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, who engaged Nigerian authorities and media on how to take the two countries’ bilateral cooperation to new levels through his initiative of the FIVE GIST strategy, has demonstrated that the year 2022 and beyond could bring Nigeria a monumental turning point in its economic, security and social fortunes, enabling and ensuring that the standard of living of the population registers tangible and measurable improvements.
Charles Onunaiju is Director of Research at the Center for Chinese Studies in Abuja
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