Nigeria's Date with China on October 1st

by Chinedu Vincent Akuta

The People’s Republic of China does not need introduction. Co-incidentally both countries (China and Nigeria) are celebrating their anniversaries on the same date of the same month (October 1st). While China will be celebrating her 60th anniversary, Nigeria will be celebrating her 49th independence anniversary. Nigeria also shares an important date (June 12) with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Both countries had very controversial presidential elections on the same date of the same month (June 12). I will use this medium to congratulate both countries on their anniversaries.

Anniversaries of these nature call for reflections, stock taking, and plans to advance the cause of nationhood or nation building. Be that as it may, it will be interesting to point out the similarities, differences, and lessons to be learnt from this massive Asia tiger (China). Nigeria and Nigerians stand to copy a lot from China in order to start the process or journey of rebuilding Nigeria. There are also more to discard from China, like her bad human rights records, undemocratic system of governance, restricting the freedom of information etc. However, there will be nothing wrong to make China a development model in certain aspects of our economic planning and implementation.

Starting with the similarities, Nigeria is a multi cultural country as well as China. Both nations have large multi ethnic groups. Also both countries have large population. Chinese population is about 1.3 billion people. Nigeria is approximately 140 million. China is the most populous country in the world, whereas Nigeria is the most populous African country. Going by the population figures, Nigeria is slightly above being the one tenth of the population of China. There are serious ethnic tensions in both countries.

In July 2009, serious riot broke out in the Xinjiang region of China. The riots were between the Uighur tribe and Han Chinese tribe. About 140 people were killed and almost 800 people were injured. Nigeria has witnessed several ethnic clashes in the past. Co-incidentally, Nigeria also had a serious crisis in the same month of July 2009. The Boko Haram riots took place around this time in the Northern parts of Nigeria. In the case of the Northern Nigerian crisis (Boko Haram), estimated death toll were over 300, while thousands were displaced.

The Xinjiang region of China is largely populated by minority Uighur tribe who are mainly Moslems. Northern Nigeria is largely populated by Moslems. Interestingly, while our president (Umar Yar’Adua) embarked on a two day state visit to Brazil when the Boko Haram crisis started, the Chinese President (Hu Jintao) left the G8 Summit in Rome Italy back to China, the moment riots broke out in Northwest part of China. Also at the just concluded United Nations summit in New York, our president was absent whereas the Chinese president was present.

China and Nigeria are trading partners. There are many Chinese business people in Nigeria, so also do so many Nigerian business people in China. The Sino-Nigeria trade tends to be in favour of China. That is, there are more Chinese products in Nigeria than Nigerian products in China. There is no equilibrium in trade. China is never to be blamed for this. The reason might be because, Chinese products are far cheaper. Most market penetration is done easily through cheap product prices.

In United Kingdom and other European Union nations, Chinese products are every where. In 2005, the European Union imposed a restriction on the importation of Chinese textiles. The reason was because; textile manufacturers in the European Union faced stiff competition from low priced textiles from China. Presently, the United States of America has imposed a 35% tariff on Chinese tires. According to US government, the cheap tires from China is harming its tire industry.

China has witnessed unprecedented economic growth since the 1980s. She became the first major economy to recover from the present global economic recession. According to Time International magazine of September 28 2009 page 18, “China is the world’s most populous and industrious nation, is the world’s third largest economy and trading nation, has become a global power innovator in science and technology, and is building a world class university system”. Nigerians can copy China is this aspect. Let the Nigerian entrepreneurs start massive small scale industrialization. I will commend the existing Nigerian industrialists. Small scale industries are the engine of every economic growth. More small scale industries are needed in Nigeria because we are very vast, with abundant labour and available markets.

The emphasis should be on very small scale industries like gari processing industries, palm oil mills, palm karnel cracking industries, etc. Farming should be highly considered by Nigerians. I remember watching on the television, attempts by the Kwara State government to bring white farmers, whom President Mugabe ejected from Zimbabwe. Before the advent of crude oil, agro allied products helped to develop the country. The first time I went to Ohaji, Egbema in Uguta Imo State, I was amazed at the large numbers of palm trees. (The place is called Adapalm) These palm trees were planted by the former Eastern Nigerian Government. Palm products from these trees were the source of revenue for the then Eastern Nigerian government. There will be nothing wrong for Nigerians to revisit agriculture. Kenya exports large quantities of tea to the United Kingdom. Agriculture would be a good area for our banks to explore.

Much of Chinese growth came through trading and massive exportation. Its economy is export driven. Nigerians need to follow China in this regard. Nigerians have the potential to trade. Let’s try and take our trading beyond the shores of Nigeria. Many are already doing that, but many more should join. There are a lot to export from Nigeria, examples include, cassava, garlic, ginger, groundnut, palm oil, cocoa etc. Less attention should be paid to oil and gas which has brought more pains than gains to Nigerians. As a matter of fact, the Guardian newspapers (United Kingdom version) of Wednesday, 26th August 2009 page 21, described the Nigerian oil proceeds as a petroleum curse.

China is the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investments because of its cheap labour. Time International magazine of September 28 2009 reported that 450 out of the Fortune 500 American companies have production lines in China. This is an area that needs the attention of credible Nigerian business people. Every effort should be made to attract foreign investors. Companies that could depend on solar energy should be on the priority list. Foreign farmers should be sort after. Nigeria could also ask China how to fight corruption. This could be our moment to start. May God bless Nigeria.

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