Nigeria is currently in crisis. The largest economy in Africa is beset by a terror threat growing ever larger and security forces unable to fend off Boko Haram’s attack. Nonetheless, the country soldiers on internationally, receiving a delegation from China set on broadening trade with the African nation.
According to Xinhua, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Abuja, the capital, on Tuesday, set on strengthening economic ties between the two nations. Xinhua lists among the goals of the trip to “broaden bilateral trade and investment cooperation, promote trade balance, and deepen collaboration in such areas as infrastructure construction, agriculture, energy, as well as the aeronautic and astronautic industries.” China appears particularly interested in selling Nigeria “high-quality and reasonably-priced regional jets.”
Others involved in the delegation expressed similar sentiments, the paper reports. China’s ambassador to Nigeria, Gu Xiaojie, noted that “Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa while China is the biggest developing country in the world, and the relationship between Nigeria and China has been very cordial.” He added that it was in both nations’ best interests to cultivate that relationship.
China is making not only a major economic push, but has become a significant contributor to Nigerian immigration. According to the New York Times, Nigerian officials have noted an increase in Chinese citizens entering Nigeria on tourist or business visas and remaining illegally, often by bribing Nigerian officials. That report notes that China not only needs a willing market for many of its mass-produced goods, but the nation has “a pressing need for Nigerian oil.” Nigeria’s need for a buyer equally benefits that country.
While much ado is being made in the Chinese media about the strengthening ties between the two nations, little is said outside of the economic sphere. A recent Chinese state TV report, for example, attempted to bolster the reputation of Nigeria as fertile ground for bilateral trade and portray the country as a kindred spirit with China that similarly was mostly rural and impoverished not so long ago, but with much potential today.
While it may appear then that Nigeria is attempting to balance competing interests – keep a cordial relationship with the United States that strengthens their national security while doing the same with China on economic policy – the needs and resources of the nation may indeed allow such an arrangement.