On Nov. 22-24, the Chinese government hosted an event on “The Belt and Road Global Chambers of Commerce and Associations Conference” in Fujian Province. This is the fourth conference of its type in the last 10 years, and “was attended by more than 1,000 guests from more than 200 business associations from over 30 countries and regions, including the U.S., Singapore and Italy,” according to post-conference coverage by the Global Times. The conference was specifically designed to advance the trade and commerce potential of the growing global BRI network.
This year’s conference saw a special emphasis on Africa and Indonesia, with opening speeches being given—alongside of Communist Party and other top-ranking Chinese figures—by Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Nigeria’s southeastern Edo State, and Nia Niscaya, the “main expert of Tourism and Creative Economy” of Indonesia. In his speech, Obaseki reportedly had nothing but praise for China, singling out major projects, including the Lagos to Ibadan SGR railroad, the terminal of the Lagos International Airport, as well as a light rail project in Lagos as success stories. Notably, for highly regionalized Nigeria, none of these three projects is in Edo State, illustrating the national and global integration potential of the Belt and Road Initiative.
“Our state has also been fortunate to benefit from the BRI, as we have had rapid industrial development, thanks to the numerous industrial companies from Fujian, led by Yongxing Steel, which has significantly promoted industrial development in my state and helped create new jobs,” Obaseki said. In his Nov. 27 domestic release, the governor added, “Edo State has a fast-growing reputation as the energy and petrochemical hub of Nigeria which should be a big attraction to potential Chinese investors with prospects of affordable gas exploration.”
Notably, in the days since Obaseki attempted to advance Nigeria’s presence on the international stage, his deputy governor has suddenly come out and declared himself a challenger for the governor’s seat in 2024, and he has also drawn sharp criticism on domestic issues from the leadership of the Evangelical Spiritual Church.