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Who's In Charge, China or Nigeria?

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
June 7, 2010


For some, the rapid growth of China's presence in Africa has been disquieting.

Beijing is not always helpful where it has political influence. It occasionally colludes with corrupt and abusive governments, and its thirst for natural resources has raised the specter of a second “scramble for Africa.”

In Nigeria, Chinese economic and political influence, however, is a chimera. It peaked under President Olusegun Obasanjo, from 1999 to 2007, and then rapidly dissipated during the subsequent Umaru Musa Yar'Adua years.

The relationship has occasionally produced benefits for both sides, though often generating more media attention than actual substance. For example, media excitement over the May announcement of China's intent to build refineries ignores a pattern of failure to implement such deals.

Post-independence in 1960, Chinese trade and investment in Nigeria were negligible, though Hong Kong and Taiwanese entrepreneurs had established a manufacturing presence, especially in textiles.

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