"China’s highly competitive manufacturing sector has devastated many smaller-scale rivals across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Mr. Xi’s pledge in Africa, in part, seemed aimed at quelling criticism over what some see as a lopsided relationship that largely benefits China.”
Across Africa, low-cost Chinese goods are everywhere. It’s growing evidence of Beijing’s dominance in global trade. While Chinese products have helped keep everyday life affordable for Nigerians struggling with economic stagnation and plunging prices, they have also caused many problems for Africa’s largest economy. In fact, the imported electrical wiring, outlets and power strips are responsible for dozens of fires per year in Lagos alone. Why can’t Nigeria reduce its excessive dependence on China? Partially because the relationship is so complex and integral to China’s global ambitions, and also because there have been tangible benefits for Nigerians. China has spent billions of dollars building roads, rail lines, airport terminals, power plants, and other infrastructure. Additionally, China is Nigeria’s top lender. The country is the biggest overseas consumer for Chinese construction firms. The expansive reach of China across Nigeria is clear. In Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the Government is investigating corruption charges in several large Chinese construction contracts. In Kano, citizens are protesting the widespread joblessness, and blaming it on China’s undercutting of Nigerian industries. China manufactures African fabric designs more cheaply than the Nigerian textile industry itself: “Employment in Nigeria’s textile and apparel sector has plummeted to 20,000 people, from 600,000 two decades ago.” Chinese goods dominate the markets so totally that consumers have few other low-cost choices. Couple that with suspected corruption and sub-par safety standards in Chinese factories and construction sites and you have the picture of the current relationship between China and Africa. The victor of this relationship is obvious. Unfortunately, there is little Nigerians can do to rebalance the relationship in their best interests, for now.