Yunana Elijah, a Diplomatic and International Consultant is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Myyesman. In this interview with ENE OSHABA, he discusses China/Africa relationship, and how partnership is benefitting Nigeria economy.
Tell us more about Myyesman
Myyesman Limited is a company registered under the laws of Nigeria and having it’s businesses in Nigeria and abroad. The company is a leading international Consultant with great government resources and consultancy experience across Africa and Asia. The company specialized in African government projects, strategy development and deployment, project financing and investment promotion and has it’s foot in Abuja, Zambia, Guinea Bissau and People’s Republic of China.
Myyesman Limited has consulted and is consulting for some African government and is providing services for some foreign missions and head of Missions in Nigeria. We have worked with several Embassies and Head of Missions in Nigeria. We consult for most African countries, Asia most especially China.
What kind of resources consultancy services do you provide for governments?
Though the business office is in Nigeria, we have not consulted for any Nigerian project as of now but most of the job we do is for African countries and we have consulted for African government.
Here in Nigeria, we consult mostly for Head of Missions of Embassies, and we have good relationship with the Chinese government.
What is your relationship with China and it’s government?
As you know, the People’s Republic of China is a member of many International Organizations, holding key positions such as a permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council. China’s foreign policy today is summarized as strategic relations with neighboring countries and the World’s superpowers to strive for China’s national interest, and to create a favorable environment for China’s domestic development for perpetual competition in the World .
Based on these remarkable achievements, i was motivated to build a cordial relationship with the Chinese government, because China is a friend to everybody, both the western world and Arab countries, China needs so many friends and everyone needs to be a friend with China. China is a global market were everyone is focusing.
We have a good relationship with the government officials, and some giant companies in China which we are doing well in terms of partnership to see how we can improve the economy of Africa. Myyesman has consulted for some top Chinese companies and some Chinese agency affiliated with the UN, UNIDO, Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of Water Resources. Part of the relationship is signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Why do you think China is helping in building Africa, most especially Nigeria?
You know the bilateral relationship between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and People’s Republic of China were formally established in 1971 a decade after Nigeria gained its independence from the British Empire. Relations between Nigeria and China have expanded on growing bilateral trade and strategic cooperation. China is considered one of Nigeria’s closest allies and partners. China is also one of Nigeria’s important trading and export partners.
Although Nigeria maintains trade relations with Taiwan, and has a representative office in Taipei, it issued a joint communiqué with China in 2005, reaffirming that Beijing was “the only legitimate government representing the whole of China and Taiwan is an unalienable part of its territory”.
China is helping in building Africa to bridge the infrastructural deficit and China is looking to have more friends from Africa. They have supported in building Nigeria in the Health sector especially during the COVID-19 Lockdown with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). China has also supported Nigeria in the construction industry.
Would you say Nigeria has benefitted from China’s belt and road Initiative for Africa?
Since Nigeria joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and became a member at a summit in Beijing in 2018, Nigeria has recorded several developments as Africa’s largest economy and the most populous nation on the African continent.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a Chinese proposal to build a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in cooperation with related countries.
The Initiative focuses on promoting policy coordination, connectivity of infrastructure and facilities, unimpeded trade, financial integration and closer people-to-people ties through a consultative process and joint efforts with the goal of bringing benefits to all. Nigeria is among the 44 African countries that have signed the memorandum of understanding with Beijing, in furtherance of the BRI partnership.
The Initiative provides African countries including Nigeria to build their own infrastructure, for example about 60% of money earmarked for Africa in the Forum On China- Africa Corporation (FOCAC) 2018 Nigeria got the highest part of that money. Imagine if Nigeria was not part of the Belt and Road initiative we wouldn’t have gotten such opportunity. I believe it is a good initiative.
Nigeria should continue bilateral relationship with China because there is more to benefit in terms of the economy, market, technology etc. As the relationship grew as more Nigerians established business and other relationships in China.
Here in Nigeria also, a good number of Chinese multinationals and small companies operate in Nigeria. Chinese companies in Nigeria are building much needed roads and railways, airports, and telecommunications infrastructure. There are currently about 28 registered Chinese firms in Nigeria. They are involved in construction, furniture, food and beverages, beauty, and product assembling plants among others.
I call on African Countries to build a strong relationship with China because of its economic magnitude, and opportunities it offers to Countries.
What areas precisely would you say are the benefits of Africa/China Relationship?
China is all over Africa these days, building railroads, bridges, and ports, doing what European colonialists should have done long ago. This is because China is investing in Africa to place the continent on the global map, help African countries develop a sound infrastructure.
That’s what African countries need to sustain economic growth and join the global economy.
In the same vain, the dramatic growth in the relationship between Africa and China is one of the great stories of the twenty –first century, part of profound transformations taking place in the global political economy. It has been greeted with excitement. To its cheerleaders, it represents the enduring partnership between Nigeria and China, spawned by the historical affinities of struggles against western imperialism and humanistic aspiration for development.
Like i said before, there is a long relationship history between both countries. Looking at what is happening now with the power sector in Nigeria is benefitting from it’s Hydro Power such as the Mambila project. The Abuja, Kaduna railway is built by China, Lagos-Ibadan rail project. Though there is debate amongst the Leaders about collecting loan from China or not but it depends on the purpose and how it’s going to be used.
Nigeria and China both celebrate October 1st as it’s national day, how would you compare the two countries in terms of development?
Yes, Nigeria and China celebrated their Independence day on 1st October, while Nigeria is marking her 60th Anniversary of the independence, China was also celebrating her 71st anniversary of founding the republic of China. And because of the partnership between the two countries, the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria has honored 49 Nigerian employees of Chinese companies operating in Nigeria for their outstanding performance and contributions to strengthening diplomatic ties between both countries.
In terms of Development, China has extended it hand to the Nigerian Government as way of promoting friendship between both countries.
Nigeria is moving forward, one problem our fellow Nigerians try to do is comparing Nigeria with developed countries which i think is not advisable. We are a developing nation and not developed or underdeveloped so comparing Nigeria with developed countries is not the best, we are catching up gradually.
Nigeria is doing quite well though we have some lapses here and there the country is moving on a good lane but infrastructure is one cardinal problem else the level of development is good. Poor infrastructure is a cardinal problem not only in Nigeria but Africa. If you go to China you will see they have speed up far, they got their independence 1949 while Nigeria got hers in 1960, just 11 years difference but look at where they are today and all this is because they believe in themselves. Let us believe in our own country this is how to develop. In the rating of countries infrastructure China is top, if we can improve on patronage for our own products it will go a long way.
Talking about patronage, you do a lot for other countries than Nigeria, why is this so?
Again that is another area Nigeria needs improvement. We have many Nigerians performing well outside and some have never been to Nigeria and some never want to come back but for me, it’s from Nigeria I see the world.
The level playing ground is important but it is not available and this doesn’t help us. Whoever you are, if you don’t have level playing ground you cannot prove your mettle but if you were given chance in an enabling environment you push and try to achieve. In my own aspect of consultancy and other business the issues of believe and trust by the Nigeria government is a huge gap.
There are so many good things Nigerians are achieving outside the country but we have not achieved that height of greatness in terms of infrastructure. There are so many things to do but the believe and trust is not there and this is a setback. Just like the President usually don’t grant interview with Nigeria Media but does so outside is what I’m talking about and this happens because we don’t believe in our own, there is a lack of trust in our capacity. I haven’t done any proposals for Nigeria government, but I’m working on how to improve Nigeria power sector because power is everything and economy, small scale business will improve. When we have power we have solved almost 80% problem of the masses but without power so many things will be left undone.
What is your take on the fights by America and China
China and America are most powerful economies I would rather they work together to bring more development to the world . They are both super nations and everybody wants to be in charge but looking at the index Chinese have support Africa and made much impact. Both countries are supposed to draw strength from each other and not fight.
What is happening in Hong Kong what is supposed to be done and how to handle it?
Hong Kong is part of China’s territory, and Hong Kong affairs fall within China’s internal affairs. And China is trying to handle it’s affairs carefully.
And non-interference in other countries internal affairs is basic norm governing international relations and no country would allow other countries to flagrantly interfere or sabotage with its sovereignty or its territorial integrity as a nation. Just recently at session of UN Human rights council, about 70 countries expressed support for China Stance and condemned the attempt to use Hong Kong issues to try to interfere with China internal affairs. Also I think most of the Hong Kong residents are in support of the China policies. And remember China comprises of mainland and the islands. And China has a policy of one country and two systems.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration stresses need for entrepreneurship, what is your take on this call?
It is a good call because Nigeria has achieved a lot and so many entrepreneurs are getting it right . What the Chinese did was to consume what they produce and it made them what they are today. China is like Nigeria in terms of population and resources and because they believe in what they produce almost all of them have business ideas and once you kick off your business government will support you. That is why they have grown and can help other countries, today many countries borrow, take loans from them.
The current administration is encouraging us to grow what we eat and if we continue like that Nigeria will grow and help other countries like China is doing and we will be amongst the top 20 countries of the world.
Nigerians believe most goods from China are deliberately substandard goods, do you believe this?
I don’t believe that, it is what you bargain for that you get and this happens even in Nigeria. There is a saying that if you buy cheap you buy twice. I don’t believe china goods is substandard they only give you what you bargain for. Our products are also export worthy but we need improvement. We need enabling environment and government support e.g Innosson motors made or assembled in Nigeria is Nigeria product. If I’m president I will drive made in Nigeria cars and formulate policy that will encourage the business. I will order all government cars to be Nigeria made the army , police, and I will lobby other African countries to patronise Innosson. That is how Julius Berger do, they are German company based in Nigeria but 95% of the cars they use is mercedes and volkswagen which their country produce. No matter the money they make in Nigeria, they buy their vehicles from Germany and import it to Nigeria. They believe in their own and patronise and I expect Nigeria to do that.
How would you describe the outbreak of coronavirus in China and the world?
I was in China when it started in Wuhan, I want to applaud the Chinese government swift and robust response in tackling the virus. Few weeks into the spread of the virus the Chinese government built big hospitals just to ensure it was addressed. Many people think the virus came from china but we still do not have the fact on that yet except the WHO can tell us what exactly where it came from their research. It is not good to blame Chinese because no one would have deliberately injured her own people, as the World view it, Coronavirus was not manufactured from China.
What Lessons should Nigeria learn from this?
Nigeria has learnt a lot because it started like a normal sickness but crippled economy to the point of lockdown. In the history of Nigeria there is nothing like lockdown or quarantine but with swift response of the National Assembly they created one and government gave accent, I think we are improving. The NCDC which was not active despite the rate of laser fever because most people didn’t believe in it now became very active with the outbreak of Coronavirus everybody put thoughts together and the center was able to have branches across the nation.
Nigeria will fix the health sector because it is a big blow to Nigeria that we were using tent as isolation centers when we have hospitals that should be upgraded. I think it was a waste of money building tents because such monies should be used to renovate and expand available hospitals so that when the virus is gone it can be switched into part of the hospital but after spending billions making tents you destroy it again? I don’t know but we learnt our lesson.
What is you advise to government?
Government need to be proactive. When i came into Nigeria from China i expected to see an organized health system at the airport to check anybody coming in so as to avoid outbreak in Nigeria but nothing of such was in place when we came down from the Emirates flight and we were just given forms to fill but I think nobody will admit he or she has coronavirus.
Though that period was not the peak of the outbreak in Nigeria but I expected that with stories from other countries Nigeria should have done more. I expected to see a machine in place to check everyone from outside the country but I traveled to other countries like Rwanda and Zimbabwe shortly after coming back from China and everything was in place and i felt government presence. Nigeria only started putting things in order during the lockdown but I think that was not early enough, government should be more proactive.