How China Is Re-colonising Nigeria (Part 2) The Catch (Continues)

INTRODUCTION

Last week, we commenced this discourse on how China, under the guise of helping developing and underdeveloped countries, is actually re-colonizing them, using well known subtle instruments of neo-colonialism. “How Europe underdeveloped Africa”, the magnus opus by the Guyanese intellectual Activist and thinker, readily comes to mind here. The sleight hand of white missionaries who came with the Bible in one hand and slave trade on the other also resonates here. Let us see more of the Chinese art of subtlety, beguilement and their widen catch.

Nigeria is in the inferno of neo-colonialism by the Chinese. They are everywhere. Even as food vendors, secondhand clothes dealers, construction site labourers, etc. It is quite glaring that the Chinese investors are quietly taking over strategic sectors of the Nigerian economy, making massive profits and displacing local businesses, as revealed by the Business Hallmark investigation.

The Asian giant, is taking advantage of the nation’s lax laws and expansive market by unleashing its horde of investors (many half-baked), on the trading, manufacturing and agriculture sectors to the detriment of local businessmen.

THE GREAT INFLUX

From oil and gas to construction; power to Information and Communications Technology (ICT); manufacturing and agriculture to education; healthcare to hospitality; transport to aviation; textile to defence and trading and general merchandising, China is spreading its hydra and octopus tentacles in Africa’s most populous and largest economy.

In nearly every sector of the nation’s economy, ranging from manufacturing to agriculture and mining, China is deliberately working hard to get a big slice of the Nigerian commercial pie, and their negative (more than positive) impact is being felt. And fortunately for Beijing, many factors are enabling it realize this tall dream. For one, some western investors are reluctant to do business in the country owing to unstable political and insecurity reasons. Some other foreign investors that were willing to do so are closing shop, and returning to their countries, or relocating elsewhere, due to what they describe as “unfriendly business environment.” Ghana, a neighbouring country, is one of the greatest beneficiaries.

China is equally achieving this aim through serious funding of infrastructural development projects, such as roads and rail lines construction, building of airport terminals and power plants, among others, in the country, which run into billions of dollars.

So, more and more Chinese organizations are finding their way into the country, just like the Chinese community in Nigeria, which keeps expanding by the day. With Beijing’s keen interest and huge investment, it is only natural that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has become its largest overseas customer. The Nigerian market is thus not only flooded with Chinese products (many half-baked and adulterated), but is also dominated by them. And they come in different substandard grades and qualities.

HOW NIGERIANS VIEW THE INFLUX

In a way, some people have deemed this advantageous, in the sense that majority of Nigerians, who have been financially incapacitated, are given a respite, as they are able to purchase low-cost Chinese goods. Indeed, the average Nigerian consumer is presently left with fewer options, as he is forced to patronize what the market has to offer, which in many cases are cheap, low quality Chinese products.

However, Chinese operations in the country are not limited to the economy. Socially, there have also been concerted efforts at integrating Chinese culture into the Nigerian society. For instance, Chinese language is presently being taught in some schools in the country. And together with their cuisine, dances and martial arts, which are also being widely promoted, it is evident that to many Chinese residents in Nigeria, the country has become like a second home. And the number of Chinese nationals, who are undertaking one operation or the other in the country, is growing by the day.

There is a frightening influx of the Asians, who are mainly found in large cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Jos, Calabar and Kano. The Chinese community in Nigeria, which is quite sizeable, makes donations to charities and partners with others to undertake developmental projects. The aim, obviously, is to make its impact felt in every area of the nation. And they are succeeding.

THE CHALLENGES POSED BY CHINESE PRODUCTS

However, all of these are coming at a huge price. There is a grave downside to this development, which is becoming hard to ignore. As Chinese and their businesses become more and more conspicuous in the country, so have issues of underhand dealings and sharp practices been dogging their tiny steps. For instance, there is the major problem of counterfeit and substandard products, which is not only wreaking havoc on the economy, but also on citizens’ lives. In addition, there have been reported cases of crass labour and environmental violations by Chinese-owned businesses. These range from inhumane working conditions, to illegal extractions of natural resources. Most Chinese companies place Nigerians on temporary employment.

Although practically every sector is affected by this terrible phenomenon, it is more pronounced in pharmaceuticals, information communications technology (ICT) and electricals. In 2015, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) disclosed that about 250 million substandard phones were being sold yearly in the country. Former Executive Vice Chairman of the commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who gave the figure (in an acting capacity then), noted that the damaging impact of the products on the economy could not be quantified in socio-economic terms.

Specifically, he lamented the adverse effects of the products on the country’s national life, saying the ugly development poses grave danger to the environment, as well as health, safety and privacy of the buyers. He said: “Apart from the obvious negative economic impact of this ugly trend on the manufacturers of genuine products, there are other consequences for operators, government and authorized dealers, which include brand evaluation, loss of revenue, copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, loss of tax, cost of compliance with applicable national legislation, national security and loss of employment opportunities.

“This menace also poses danger to the health and safety of consumers, equally breaching the privacy of consumers. A collective effort is urgently needed to curtail counterfeiting in ICT”. Again, on another visit to the Computer Village, Lagos, Mr Danbatta, lamented on the influx of substandard products, especially in the areas of mobile devices”. (See nigerianvoice.com/news)

He stated that the menace of fake products, apart from impacting negatively on the economy, constitutes a major threat to the quality-of-service improvement. Dambatta deeply expressed NCC resolve to partner with CAPDAN in the fight to end the menace to counterfeit products in the market in particular, and in the country at large to a standstill.

SOME EXPERTS SPEAK

As this issue and the controversy surrounding the influx of counterfeit and sub-standard products, especially from China, continues to gather momentum, experts including the President, Computer and Allied Products Dealers Association of Nigeria (CAPDAN), Ahmed Ojikutu, have called for regulation of supposed ‘cheap products’ in the country.

Mr Ojikutu, who said that most of these low-quality goods are found in electronics and telecommunications products among others, told The Guardian that the claim that fake and substandard products entering the country were from China is neither here nor there.

He explained that the challenge has lingered for this long because of three factors listed as Low Regulatory Oversight; Low Economic Growth; and Poor Orientation.

Ojikutu, who said most Nigerians indulge in shady deals because they have no economic power, lamented that the purchasing power of the people has gone seriously down to the point that “some don’t even have that power… In this situation, people will demand for very low standard products. It is even worse because some of the countries producing these products ship to Nigeria, low quality products because the Per Capital Income of Nigerians is either low or non-existent. No money to spray about.”

Ojikutu said if the purchasing power of an average Nigerian is high, he or she would go for durable, original goods.

In his words, “Let’s take China for example, most Chinese use iPhone. Even when the phone is still very exorbitant at about over $1,000, they still buy the phone. You need to see queues of Chinese people who want to buy iPhones in shops. They can afford this because their purchasing power is very high. That is the reason I said that with improved purchasing power of Nigerians, they will go for the very best of products and services in town,” he lamented.

In the area of regulations, the CAPDAN president was quick to call on government to regulate products adjudged to be cheap, stressing that standards must never be compromised. “If there are no standards, the country will continue to suffer and in the long run, it is the people that will be the first casualty,” he said

Speaking on orientation, Ojikutu queried that what exposure and knowledge of those who import products into the country. “This is where government also comes in. The Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), I really don’t know what they are doing that they have been denied spot at the ports. I mean both at the Sea and Airports. SON needs to be there. These said sub-standard low products enter the country from these two places. I think government should look seriously and urgently into that. It shouldn’t be left to the Customs alone if we must win this fight,” Ojikutu further lamented.

NOW THIS

The CAPDAN chief noted that at Computer Village, the Association does so many things to curb activities of low-quality products peddlers. Ojikutu revealed that CAPDAN has forged a pact with Fonreg to introduce a platform, which operates with mobile phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, in order to curb phone theft, which he described as a major threat to the operations of the Computer Village, in Lagos, which is adjudged the largest market for Information Communications Technology wares in West Africa.

Another telecoms expert, Kehinde Aluko, who supports Ojikutu views regarding the regulation of cheap and substandard products into the country, said placing embargo on these products is a good starting point. Aluko posited that any Nigerian caught for smuggling/importing substandard products should be seriously dealt with.

“Increasing tariff on imported products is another way of reducing importation of these products. This will discourage importation of goods generally and promote the growth of infant industries in the country.” According to him, putting in place these two policies will boost the country’s external reserve as it will export than import, increase the level of gross domestic products (GDP) and also boost the life expectancy of people in the country. Aluko, added that some substandard products were also produced in the country, hence there is the need for government to send Nigerian youths abroad to learn how to make and brand products. (To be continued). 

AND THIS

CRACK YOUR RIBS

“Before you embark on weight loss, check the size of your head to avoid looking like a standing fan… Shey you grab?”.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“The loss of national identity is the greatest defeat a nation can know, and it is inevitable under the contemporary form of colonization”. (Slobodan Milosevic).

LAST LINE

God bless my numerous global readers for always keeping fate with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by humble me, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., LL.M, Ph.D, LL.D. kindly, ride with me to next week’s exciting conversation.