The visit of the Ambassador of China, Dr. Zhou Pingjian to Akwa Ibom State a week ago, being the first ever by any senior official of the People’s Republic of China is in every sense significant and symbolic. His choice of the State as the starting point of his tour of Nigeria to prospect for investment opportunities and partnerships signposts the mileage the State has reached in global rating. Thanks to the quality of leadership that providence has brought the way of the State in the last almost two decades.
China is said to have a population of about 1.4 billion. That makes her arguably the largest market in the world. But rather than rue over the negatives that afflict large populations like shortfall in food supply and pressure on infrastructure, it has focused on the advantages and maximised them by aggregating the energies of the people and channelling them into manufacturing, production, agriculture, scientific breakthroughs, mining and even entertainment. Today China’s economy is the largest in the world and growing in geometric progression owing to that government’s policies on education, entrepreneurship, interest rate , access to funds to small and medium scale enterprise which have budded the plethora of items manufactured in China and lastly deliberate and aggressive eradication of poverty.
The choice of Akwa Ibom as a destination by a powerful delegation comprising the Ambassador, staffers of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Nigeria, Chinese construction giants operating in Nigeria and the State, is an indication of the rating Akwa Ibom is enjoying from the most populous country in the world. The visit also holds the prospect of a viable cooperation that would bring great benefits to the State.
China as we know is a First World. It is known in the manufacturing of a surfeit of goods and the provision of highly skilled services. It has recorded novel breakthroughs in many facets. A viable relationship with China would therefore witness robust partnerships and the setting up of manufacturing outfits that would generate employment and engagement for the people. And manufacturing being the real sector is the hub of any viable economy.
Nigeria and China enjoy robust and cordial relationship which was established in 1971. Currently, it is Nigeria’s biggest trading partner. In the last few years, more than 12 billion US dollars have exchanged hands between the two countries. The prospects for more are seeming with the Ambassador’s tour of Nigeria to explore for new ways of strategic relationships that would encourage balance of trade. This certainly would be buoyed by China’s deliberate cultivation of cordiality which the Ambassador said is the counselling the Home Government gives to Chinese doing business outside China and which involves working with the locales and contributing meaningfully in the development of the community. For the disparity in trade balance , the Ambassador during a courtesy call on the governor said the Chinese government is interested in trade balance, not in trade surplus in her favour. He said the strategic cooperation would include the encouragement of “Made in Nigeria” products to boost the economy.
Research shows that the two countries have a lot in common . This was further identified and corroborated by Dr Zhou Pingjian. He said that as China has the largest population in Asia, Nigeria has the same in Africa. Also while China boasts of the largest market in Asia, Nigeria holds the same record in Africa. He also noted that China is the fastest growing economy in Asia with Nigeria in the same tow in Africa. Both countries also share the similarity of being strong economies. Flowing from these, the Ambassador urged the two countries to cooperate for the many extant benefits the pact stands to issue.
For the man whose visionary leadership attracted the attention of the Chinese government and made the State a first port of call by officials of the largest economy in the world, the index by index comparison of the two countries impels the need for cooperation. Governor Emmanuel observed that for a country of 170 million population, 1.7 million US dollars as total export value to China, Nigeria’s biggest trading partner, is paltry. He called for greater cooperation between the two countries noting that cassava and bamboo which are available in abundance in Nigeria and consumed in large quantities in China are enough to jerk the export value.
Governor Emmanuel also hinted on the many opportunities that exist in Akwa Ibom State in areas like agriculture and marine. He intimated the Ambassador of the vast opportunities at Ibom Deep Seaport which he said has a natural drought of 17 metres without dredging and the longest shoreline in the Gulf of Guinea. The Akwa Ibom helmsman posited that the seaport would not only service the entire Gulf of Guinea , it would also enhance cost effective business operations. According to him, while it could take months to clear goods from other seaports because of congestion and logistics, goods would be cleared at Ibom Deep Seaport within 48 hours. He urged the Ambassador to encourage business operators in China to come and prospect for opportunities in the State pointing out that the State is not only peaceful, it is the new industrial haven.
Attracting investors to one’s State is a feat not possible with ordinary people at the moment or one without credentials and clout. At the advent of the APC led administration, many businesses closed shop with owners leaving the country in droves . It was widely held that it was the resultant consequence of fearful utterances that emanated from the Presidency. The dust is still yet to settle and the damage has been collateral to Foreign Direct Investments. Governor Emmanuel’s efforts of wooing investors to still come to Akwa Ibom are feats that deserve our commendations. It is indeed proof that the hoopla about his name opening doors in the corporate world is a fact, not a fluke. His name is arguably a median touch in the corporate world. It was therefore not for nothing that Akwa Ibom State, according to reports from the National Bureau of Statistics, recorded the feat of being the largest recipient of FDI after Lagos.
With the Chinese attraction to Akwa Ibom, the economy of the State is bound to experience some boom. There are about 40, 000 China nationals living and working in Nigeria mostly in businesses owned by them. The State would have a reasonable market share of these practical and pragmatic people. Already a few of them are working in Chinese construction firms in the State. Now is the time for a new cooperation that would give fillip to the economy of the State.