Chinese FM meets Nigerian top officials, consolidating ties with Africa's largest economy
Published: Jan 06, 2021 01:25 AM

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and other high-level officials on Tuesday, kicking off his five-nation tour in Africa, which is expected to involve accessing to China-made COVID-19 vaccines and enhancing cooperation in other domains. 

Wang was scheduled to wrap up his visit Tuesday to Nigeria, which is also the largest economy in the African continent, media reported. The partnership between China and Nigeria vividly displays how China-Africa ties serve the interests of African countries, experts said. 

Wang met President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and other high-level officials on Tuesday and discussed "a number of issues relating to strengthening Nigeria-China relations and the promotion of common interests," said a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria. 

Nigeria has opened talks with China to access its COVID-19 vaccine, Onyeama was quoted in local media reports as saying. He also recalled the immense assistance that China has offered to Nigeria in fighting the pandemic including the donation of protective equipment. 

Wang's visit shows the great importance China has attached to friendship with African countries, according to Chinese experts. 

A range of Nigerian ministers who are in charge of transportation, trade and investment, health and defense were set to participate in the bilateral discussions between Wang and Onyeama, according to the ministry. 

"The cooperation between China and Nigeria reflects the overall model of cooperation between China and Africa, mainly in infrastructure and industrial cooperation," He Wenping, a research fellow with the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday. This development model also helps in creating more jobs and driving up modernization, He said. 

As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria is also China's largest project contracting market in Africa, with projects including railways, highways, housing construction, power stations, water conservancy, communications and drilling, according to media reports. China and Nigeria also believe there is room to expand cooperation in crude oil, infrastructure and poverty alleviation. 

However, some media reports hyping discrimination toward Nigerians in China in 2020 cast a shadow over people-to-people exchanges, but such negative sentiment is expected to be dispelled by Wang's visit, analysts said. 

In the international system, there are no perfect international relationships, but if last year taught us anything, it exposed areas of work that need to be tackled, Ovigwe Eguegu, policy advisor at Beijing-based consultancy Development Reimagined and co-founder of think tank Afripolitika, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Anti-China sentiment can't be divorced from Nigeria's media consumption which is mainly Western, some of which has been stoking up anti-China feeling by pushing the unsubstantiated "debt trap" narrative, the Nigerian expert said. 

Nigeria-China relations can only get stronger because of the benefits of cooperation, and the potential for further cooperation eclipses the challenges, Eguegu added, and high-level engagement such as this is the perfect opportunity for dialogue and to improve ties. 

Nigerian newspaper Leadership said in an article on Tuesday that it's worth noting that Nigeria has benefitted from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which has paved the way for much bigger projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, and Nigeria needs to take advantage of this visit to cement its ties with China and make this partnership move forward. 

China will work with Africa on three priority areas - vaccine cooperation, economic recovery, and transformative development - Wang said in a recent interview with Chinese media, and these should be the pivotal domains of China-Africa cooperation this year.

2021 is also the closing year for implementing the outcomes of the Beijing Summit of FOCAC, and further FOCAC meetings are scheduled to be held in Senegal in 2021. The visit of Wang to Africa will also accelerate China-Africa cooperation in areas such as the digital economy, e-commerce, industrial chain integration and 5G, observers said. 

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