China in Nigeria
June 4, 2008
Professor Pat Utomi, a political economist and senior faculty member at the Lagos Business School-Pan African University, conducted extensive in-country interviews to examine the perceptions and impact of China's engagement in Nigeria in a CSIS comissioned case study.
In his analysis he details an increasingly complex, rapidly evolving relationship between Nigeria and China. He makes the case that Nigerian perspectives on that engagement, even within the government itself, are far from uniform. Utomi’s study explains that many career foreign affairs officers and politicians feel that a China-Nigeria partnership could offer greater benefits than collaboration with the West, but that there were many areas of the relationship that needed increased attention and improvement: the risk of heightened dependence on China and often weak official Nigerian leverage in the relationship; quality of project implementation, and uncertainty over technology transfer. Nigeria’s private business community also exhibited mixed feelings about Chinese business incursions into Nigeria. Businessmen welcomed trading with a lower-cost economy, securing financing from Chinese partners, and learning from Chinese manufacturers and business models, but worried that Chinese firms might be benefitting in greater proportions than Nigerian businessmen.
In order to combat some of these challenges, Utomi calls for expanded debate within the Nigerian government and across the business, academic, and civil society communities on how best to optimize Western and Chinese engagement. He argues that Nigerian policymakers, including national and local officials, are not setting policies that will have the strongest possible impact on Nigeria’s long-term economic growth for the widest array of its citizens. To overcome this challenge, strong pressure must be placed on Nigerian leaders to effectively balance U.S. and Chinese engagement to maximize African growth and opportunity.