By Lizzy Okoji
Mr Zhao Yong, Deputy Ambassador of China to Nigeria has disclosed that Nigeria is China’s major investment destination in Africa with a bilateral trade growth ranking first among China’s top 40 trading partners globally.
Zhao made this known on Monday in Abuja while briefing journalists as part of activities to mark the commemoration of the 50 years of bilateral relations between both countries.
He said that Nigeria had surpassed Angola and South Africa to become China’s second largest trading partner and largest export market in Africa.
The Chinese envoy said the trade growth between both countries had continued to grow amid the adverse effect of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.
“In 2019, the trade volume between China and Nigeria reached 19.27 billion US dollars, which was 1,900 times that of 1971 when the diplomatic relationship was first established.
“And the bilateral trade growth rate is ranking first among China’s top trading partners in the world.
“Despite the adverse effects of the COVID-19, the bilateral trade volume from Jan. to Oct. 2020 increased by 0.7 per cent year on year, which was 14 per cent higher than the trade growth rate between China and Africa as a whole.
“The Ogun-Guandong Free Trade Zone and Lekki Free Trade Zone have attracted a large numbers of Chinese companies to invest and operate in their businesses.
“The infrastructure projects built jointly by the two countries such as roads, ports and airport terminals can be seen everywhere,” Zhao said.
Zho said the China-Nigeria bilateral relations had elevated to a strategic partnership with practical cooperation in various fields yielding results.
He added that in the past 50 years, the exchanges between China and Nigeria in the areas of culture, health and security had been increasingly dynamic.
He also said that in 2019, the number of Nigerian students studying in China rose to 6,800, standing as first in all African countries.
On the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhao said China provided timely medical aid to Nigeria in three batches and shared its experiences on epidemic prevention and control with the Nigerian government.
Zhao, however, noted that China was ready to make joint efforts with Nigeria to further strengthen the anti-pandemic cooperation to completely defeat the Covid-19.
He added that this year would be vital for China-Nigeria relations following the recent visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi in January to Nigeria.
He recalled that during the visit, both countries jointly formulated a blueprint to boost bilateral cooperation for another next 50 years.
Zhao promised that China was committed to support Nigeria’s development, security and safeguard its national sovereignty.
“China is ready to deepen the Belt and Road Cooperation; speed up the construction of key projects so as to help Nigeria accelerate the process of industralisation.
“Explore the cooperation in the areas of digital economy and green economy; expand military and security cooperation with a view to enhancing Nigeria’s capacity of safeguarding national security.
“And closely coordinate with each other on regional and international affairs to safeguard the common interests of developing countries,” Zhao said.
Zhoa also commended the China-Nigeria relations which he described as a pacesetter in China-Africa cooperation.