Nigerians have been quite vocal with their views on the recently concluded Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which held between September 3 and 4, 2018.
FOCAC, comprising China and 53 African member states and the commission of the African Union is a platform for high-level dialogue between China-Africa leaders and business representatives. At this year’s meeting, the 6th edition of China-Africa Business Forum was also held .
Back in Nigeria which is the biggest economy in Africa and one of China’s most important trading partners, the varying comments Nigerians made on the social and traditional media, as could be predicted, started rolling in as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari touched down in Beijing. The commentary intensified with two major announcements.
First was the declaration that President Buhari and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, would witness the signing of an agreement on the National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase 11 between Galaxy Backbone Limited and Huawei Technologies Limited (HUAWEI) at the cost of $328m facility provided by the Chinese EXIM Bank.
Then there was the remarkable pledge by President Xi that China will extend a total of $60billion of financing to Africa.
The financing will be provided in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies, the Chinese President said in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of FOCAC 2018.
Following the establishment of FOCAC in 2000, China-Africa cooperation has aided development in Africa.
This is just as the founding of FOCAC has seen cooperation between China and African countries being improved on, in critical sectors such as agricultural modernisation, public health, infrastructure, industrialisation green development, poverty alleviation, trade and investment facilitation, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, peace and security.
Aside from the key areas listed above, there is data that indicates that trade volume between China and African countries rose from $10.6 billion to $170 billion from the year 2000 to 2017.
This is more than the current trade volume between African countries and other so called super powers. China’s outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stock in Africa has soared from $500 million to more than $41 billion in the same period of time.
But following the mixed reactions that trailed the two key declarations by President Xi and President Buhari, I decided to take an analytical look at the Chinese leader’s much talked about keynote address at the summit.
I even grew more keen on paying attention to the policy statements emanating from the closely monitored summit, when Buhari in dismissing fears, as expressed by sections of the Nigerian and international press, that Africa was being ensnared into a debt trap, disclosed that China funded $5 billion worth of projects in Nigeria.
Buhari explained on the last day of the summit, that under the partnership with China through FOCAC, these projects had been executed in the last three years of his administration.
Arguing that Nigeria would be able to repay the loans, he also said Nigeria was leveraging Chinese funding to execute $3.4bn worth of projects at various stages of completion.
This is even as Buhari said support from China has helped Nigeria address significant challenges in the areas of human capacity development, infrastructure, power, transport, agriculture and humanitarian support.
As mentioned earlier, I fed my curiosity on how Africa can truly benefit from China’s extension of a hand of fellowship by analyzing President’s Xi’s speech.
And quite early in my dissecting his address to African leaders, I noticed that in the speech entitled: ‘Work Together for Common Development and a Shared Future’, the Chinese leader itemised eight major initiatives to be executed in close collaboration with African countries in the next three years and beyond, based the 10 cooperation plans already adopted by FOCAC leaders.
The Chinese leader disclosed the he will launch the industrial promotion initiative, the infrastructure connectivity initiative, the trade facilitation initiative, the green development initiative, the capacity building initiative, the healthcare initiative, the people to people initiative and finally, the peace and security initiative.
Its worthy of note, that it is based on the need to fund these thematic interventions, which I believe Africa and its most populous nation, Nigeria stand to greatly benefit from, that Xi announced the $6 billion investment in Africa.
Maybe what those are freighted by the fact that African leaders, especially those in Nigeria have historically mismanaged aids and loans, should be doing is to look at the eight thematic areas in order to set specific targets for the Federal Government.
Also young people have a role to play post FOCAC 2018, because President Xi categorically stated that the these initiatives are designed to assist young people on the continent, Nigerians inclusive.
Having largely participated in the summit virtually (online) and venting their opinions on social media, Nigerian youths must mobilise, like they have done in the entertainment and ICT industry and of recent politically, to get the #NotTooYoungToRunBill passed, to see to Nigerian leaders transparently managing the funds coming from China.
This is not time to agonise and criticise, rather Nigeria-China relations is an issues youths should organise and mobilise for in orders to have positive outcomes.
Kemi Yesufu a development journalist and public affairs analyst wrote in from Abuja .