Industrialisation: Doing it the Chinese Way

“Made in China’’ unarguably has become a dominant inscription on most products world over.

These products span across electronics, textile, pharmaceuticals, leather products, automobile, building materials, phones, accessories, military hardware, among others.

Available statistics indicate that that China has so far attracted over 139 trillion dollars in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

In Nigeria, the following interrogations have become imperative: how did China metamorphose from a struggling economy to a prodigious economic hub and melting point of production?

How come, China, with its mammoth population, produces enough to service local consumption and scoop billions of dollars from exports?

Why can’t Nigeria with its huge population and enormous human resources, be a focal point of manufacturing in Africa?

The answers are not far-fetched; aside the internal mechanism put in place and the determination of the Chinese people, its government attracted many foreign investors who built manufacturing plants in China.

China, with deliberate economic policies and political will, also attracted highly skilled investors whose expertise rubbed off on the Chinese people.

Regrettably currently, foreign investors in Nigeria are mainly portfolio investors and those that promote consumerism–building shopping malls where imported biscuits and confectionaries are sold.

Recently, Dr Zhou Pingjian, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, said that 60 per cent of products made in China and exported to world market were made by foreign direct investors in China.

He spoke at a one-day Entrepreneurship Training on Sustainable Small Business at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan.

Pingjian also stated that most of the made in China goods exported to Nigeria were made by Nigerians in China.

He said China’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in I979 was zero, adding the FDI of China at the end of 2016 was 1.7 trillion dollars.

The Chinese Ambassador added that China had developed due to its focus on economic development since 1979 when it started economic recovery programme.

Pingjian said that for any country to breakthrough economically, government and political leadership must be ready to take a visionary leap in those sectors.

“China will always promote Chinese business class to invest in Nigeria because Nigeria has everything to achieve its economic growth,’’ he said.

Pingjian attributed the growth of China to the strong reforms carried out in the country and the commitment of the people of China.

He said China government has pledged 60 billion dollars to support China-African Cooperation projects for 2016 to 2018, saying about 40 billion dollars had been disbursed at the end of June.

“An example of such projects is the Lagos-Ibadan railway, which is contracted by CCECC and financed by China bank. The project is 1.3 billion dollars and part of the 60 billion dollars,” he said.

He commended Sunmonu for her foresight; charging participants to be ambitious, open minded, focused; and be ready to make sacrifices when starting businesses.

Sunmonu said that the programme was designed to teach the selected participants how to manage finances to ensure that businesses set up did not fail but successful.

She observed that nine out of every 10 businesses failed in the first five years of being set up; saying many people with entrepreneurial drive did not properly plan before business.

“Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China’s economy has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Science and technology are considered vital to China’s economic and political goals with laudable investment in basic and applied scientific research and engineering,’’ she said.

A publication in Lexology highlights the key factors in attracting Foreign Investors (FIEs) to China.

According to the publication, Chinese policy on FIEs focuses on creating an equal playing field between foreign investors and domestic investors. In particular, the Chinese government will:

“Work towards a fairer environment for FIEs when they apply for permits/licences and participate in public bidding projects;

“Offer FIEs greater chance to participate in formulating industrial standards;

“Enhance intellectual property (IP) enforcement mechanism and have more international IP arbitration institutions to set up branches in China to better protect IP rights of foreign investors; and

“Explore diversified financing channels for FIEs, such as listing on the main board, secondary board, SME board or the new OTC market, and issuance of bonds by FIEs.

“As part of the reform on the registered capital system, any minimum capital requirements must be removed for FIEs as long as they are not specified by law or administrative regulations.

“The central government will grant greater autonomy to local governments on offering local incentives to attract foreign investment,’’ the publication said.

The publication said that FIEs in encouraged industries could continue to benefit from lower land use cost, which was set at 70 percent of the minimum land grant price.

It said that high-level foreign talents setting up hi-tech enterprises in China will, together with their families, be entitled to more preferential treatment in terms of residency status and visa policies.

Undoubtedly, many foreign firms such as TECNO, SANY and others from China, Germany and Russia have indicted interests in establishing manufacturing plants in Nigeria.

Sadly disappointingly, these seemingly laudable investments end up in papers and hardly come to fruition.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently reassured existing and prospective foreign investors that their investments in Nigeria were secured and would be fully protected.

Buhari gave the assurance at a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi.

Stakeholders hold that Nigeria needs to do more in creating an enabling environment for foreign investors as is done in China.

A policy analyst, Mr Charles Uguru, said that Nigeria had the market and access to the seas which were advantages.

“One of the things that attracted investors to China was cheap labour; Nigeria has a reasonable population and a huge percentage is unemployed.

“Gladly, the National Assembly and the Economic led by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have been promoting the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

“The vision of the National Assembly to is to create an environment where new bossiness can thrive; where foreign investors can comfortably put their money without fear of policy summersault.

“But two things ought to addressed- stabilising the polity and as a matter of utmost urgency, addressing the problem of power.

“Industries cannot thrive where power is expensive; once power is stable, every other things fall in place,’’ he said.

He said that Nigeria should open inland container ports in all the regions in order to boost access to international markets.

Sharing similar sentiments, Sen. Stella Oduah said that the South eastern part of the country required a minimum of three container ports to boost the economic growth of the country.

Oduah said the ports were necessary because the Southeast region had become an industrial zone.

She said that because the Southeast was land locked, inland container ports would expose the region to international markets.

The senator added that if the ports were in place, the rate of road accidents as well as road degradation would be minimised.

“Southeast is a commercial region; what we do best is trading; what we do best is industrialisation; that is innate in us; for us to be able to enhance it and export products, we must have access to the global market.

“We already have an international airport; the second one will be to have a cargo export terminal which is why the inland cargo terminal is important.

“Unless we have that it means that for every cargo, every transaction, import or export will have to be through Port Harcourt or through Lagos.

“Without the inland ports it means that accident rate that had been reported all these years because of bad roads will continue to increase because a trader will either import or export his goods through Lagos or Port Harcourt.

Perceptive analysts opine that aside engaging Chinese firms for infrastructural projects, concerted efforts should be made to bring firms from China and others developed countries to build factories in Nigeria.

They say that local manufacturing should also be commensurately incentivised for Nigeria to achieve industrial growth and create wealth and employment.