The Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, has drawn attention to the mounting debt owed by Nigeria due to its participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The forum featured two dozen world leaders and over a hundred delegations, all focused on the BRI, a global infrastructure program launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping a decade ago.
The BRI is a two-pronged strategy, comprising the “Belt,” which involves overland routes connecting China to Europe through Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, and the “Road,” a maritime network connecting China to major ports across Asia, Africa, and Europe. China has portrayed the initiative as an economic win-win, promising development in other nations and helping Chinese companies grow while enhancing China’s global reputation.
However, questions have arisen about the economic implications of the billions of dollars that Nigeria has borrowed from China to finance various infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, and power plants. As of June 2023, Nigeria’s debt to China stands at $4.7 billion.
Furthermore, China has expressed its willingness to refinance and complete the Abuja-Kano and Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri railway projects following a request by President Bola Tinubu. While China initially agreed to provide 85% financing for these projects, Nigeria was responsible for the remaining 15% of the funding.
The China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation has been named as the contractor for these crucial infrastructure projects. Nigeria has been actively engaging with the Chinese on numerous infrastructure initiatives over the years, including the Nigeria Communication Satellite project, Nigeria National Public Security Communication System project, and Nigeria railway modernization projects, among others.
As Nigeria continues to accumulate debt through its participation in the BRI, the economic viability and long-term implications of these loans have come under scrutiny. While infrastructure development is vital for Nigeria’s growth, concerns over the debt burden and the terms of these agreements have raised questions about the sustainability of this financial relationship with China.