China in Nigeria: Short Term Gains, Long Term Chaos for Nigeria
The Arrangement Howard French, in his 2014 book China’s Second Continent, estimated that there were over a million Chinese immigrants in African countries who have established very successful businesses and who call these countries home. Nigeria
Howard French, in his 2014 book China’s Second Continent, estimated that there were over a million Chinese immigrants in African countries who have established very successful businesses and who call these countries home. Nigeria is one of these places that Chinese descendants now call home.
The relationship between Nigeria and China transcends that of a few thousand Chinese immigrants, to a more diplomatic relationship that has grown from tumultuous in the early 1960s to strategic in the late 1990s and early 2000s to critical for survival in these modern times.
China needs Nigeria to supply it with natural resources for its massive future growth strategy, while Nigeria needs China to supply its infrastructure needs. While each side needs the other, there is no doubt that Nigeria is currently more dependent on China than the other way around. For example, China can get energy resources from other countries and can even tap into the massive deposits estimated by the EIA in the South China Sea.
The current state of infrastructure in Nigeria is dire at best. Power generation helps put things in perspective – Nigeria’s population is about 180 million while that of California is about 39 million. Nonetheless, California’s total power output capacity is 87,000 megawatt while that of Nigeria is about 7,500 megawatt. These numbers show exactly why Nigeria is more dependent on the partnership with China, to help revitalize the development of Nigerian infrastructure.
The delicate nature of this relationship for Nigeria can’t be overstated as President Buhari of Nigeria is currently visiting Beijing to establish deeper relationships that can help Nigeria diversify its economy away from oil, a move necessary, given the current oil prices and future outlook of fossil fuels in general.
Yet another reason why this relationship is essential for Nigeria is the anticipated population growth for Nigeria in the next 30 -50 years–the United Nation estimates that Nigeria’s population will exceed 400M by 2050. Nigeria definitely needs to prepare for the future by having the right resources and infrastructure for its increasing and more affluent citizens, and that is exactly where China helps Nigeria.
Drawbacks for Nigeria
Despite this potentially symbiotic relationship between both countries, Nigeria’s leaders are well advised to be a bit more cautious and methodical in these relationships and dealings with China. There is no disputing that every decision from Beijing almost always is in favor of China and its citizens. There is something greater that China stands to gain.
Further scrutiny of these dealings seems to suggest that all Nigerians get are the “shiny” new toys or improved infrastructure, but not so much of the technology behind the infrastructure. The language barrier has been one of the culprits often cited as responsible for the lack of transference of technology. While this may be true, Nigeria’s leaders need to ensure that there are requirements for technology transference.
The negative effect on the local economy can also not be ignored. The trade deficit between Nigeria and China, dumping of relatively inferior goods in Nigeria, massive indebtedness to Beijing, elimination of the local Nigerian entrepreneur, Chinese workers “takeover”, etc. are some of the negative consequences of this relationship for Nigeria and Nigerians.
Where do we go from here?
There is no denying that Nigeria as a country benefits from China’s contributions as we prepare for the future. However, as currently construed, the relationship between both countries does more harm than good for Nigeria. It may be difficult to see since Nigerians are getting new and shiny infrastructure at the moment, but the long-term view does not position Nigeria well.
Nigeria’s leaders must strive to ensure that:
- Nigeria receives not only the infrastructure, but also the technology behind the infrastructure. This is the only sustainable path for Nigeria. Without this, Nigeria will find itself being forever dependent on China – a form of recolonization similar to that of the British.
- Furthermore, the immigration rules for all foreigners need to be more strict – perhaps requiring of corporations that for every two foreign workers, a local worker is also hired and treated fairly.
Featured image: Chinatown in Lagos by Antoine Tempé