NIGERIA has gained up to $5 billion projects through its partnership with China, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
He listed critical projects across the country, some of them completed and others ongoing, as part of the gains from China’s financial support.
The President spoke in Beijing, China at the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) Round Table meeting, attended by African leaders and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Quoting the President in a statement, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu said the Chinese support to Nigeria had addressed significant challenges in power, transport and agriculture. There is also humanitarian assistance.
Shehu said: “For Nigeria, our partnership with China through the FOCAC platform has resulted in the construction of the first urban rail system in West Africa. This $500 million project in Abuja was commissioned in July this year.
The President also cited the construction and operation of the first rail system in Africa using modern Chinese standards and technology.
“This 180-km rail line that connects Abuja and Kaduna was commissioned two years ago at a cost of $500 million. Today, the rail line is functioning efficiently with no issues – indeed, a sign that Chinese technology is world class,” he noted.
President Buhari said: “Nigeria is leveraging Chinese funding to execute $3.4 billion worth of projects at various stages of completion”.
These include the upgrading of airport terminals, the Lagos – Kano rail line, the Zungeru hydroelectric power project and fibre cables for internet infrastructure.
“Furthermore, less than three months ago, Nigeria signed an additional $1billion loan from China for additional rolling stock for the newly constructed rail lines as well as road rehabilitation and water supply projects,” Buhari said.
To the President, the aforementioned projects had demonstrated the high level of consistency and commitment China had shown in boosting its relations with African countries under the umbrella of FOCAC.
“I am optimistic that this Summit will offer new opportunities that would build on these past achievements,: he said, adding:
“Nigeria will continue to support the FOCAC initiative and also seek to key into the Belt and Road Initiative. “
Buhari dispelled insinuations about the so-called death trap by Chinese government on developing countries, insisting that Nigeria would be able to repay the loans.
He said: “These vital infrastructure projects synchronise perfectly with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. Some of the debts incurred are self-liquidating. Our country is able to re-pay loans as and when due in keeping with our policy of fiscal prudence and sound housekeeping.”
The President applauded China for its overall commitment to the ideals of FOCAC.
He acknowledged that since the launch of the Forum in 2000, China and Africa had strived to implement the declarations and follow-up action plans for the benefit of both parties.
He also praised President Jinping, his Government and the people for successfully hosting the Beijing Summit aimed at further strengthening China-Africa partnership.
A top Chinese official said China was helping Africa develop, not pile up debt.
President Xi Jinping pledged 60 billion dollars to African nations at Monday’s opening of a China-Africa forum on cooperation, matching the size of funds offered at the last summit in Johannesburg in 2015.
A wave of African nations seeking to restructure their debt with China has served as a reality check for Beijing’s ties with the continent, though most of its countries still see Chinese lending as the best bet to develop their economies.
“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” its special envoy for Africa, Xu Jinghu, told a news conference.
“It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”
She said, as it pushes forward with Xi’s pledge, China will use feasibility studies to select projects that help African countries achieve sustainable development and steer clear of debt or financial woes.
“We need to take into account the fluctuations of the international economic situation, which has raised the cost of financing for these African countries.
“Most of them depend on exporting raw materials, the price of which, on the international market, has been falling,” said Xu, adding that the overall debt burden had built up over a long time.
China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy, and Xi also said government debt from Chinese interest-free loans due by the end of 2018 would be written off for the poorest African nations.
Claims that China was an “economic predator” in Africa, pillaging natural resources and dragging it into a debt crisis, were “as false as they are sensational,” the Xinhua official news agency said in a commentary.
“Chinese loans to Africa have a lower interest rate and longer repayment period compared to the market average, and these concessional loans are primarily used to build infrastructure,” it added.
The total value of Xi’s pledge this year matches that of 2015, but it comprises a smaller portion of loans and more concessionary assistance than before, said Deborah Brautigam, an expert on China-Africa relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
“(China’s) debt relief polices have not changed,” she said in a note, adding that the write-off covered a modest part of Chinese finance in Africa.
The summit, held as the United States seeks to constrain China and vilify it as the new coloniser of Africa, shows the Asian nation will rely more on trade with the continent, former Deputy Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo wrote on Tuesday for the China Going Global Thinktank.
“I hope that in the next five years China-Africa economic and trade cooperation will overtake China-U.S. trade,” he said.
“This is totally achievable.”
China and the United States are embroiled in an increasingly bitter trade war.
Separately, Xinhua said China and Mauritius had completed talks on a free-trade pact, which would make the island nation the first African country to strike such a deal with Beijing.