The relationship between Lagos and China awakens a nostalgic tale of present and futuristic development. In the title, the famous Raymond Williams book; The Country and the City, comes closest to the relationship between Lagos and China. Published in 1973, the book was a delight to cultural afficionado as it analyzes images of the country and the city in English literature since the 16th century, and how these images become central symbols for conceptualizing the social and economic changes associated with capitalist development in England. While the Country and the City was published several years back, China’s foray into Lagos has not been that long, however, it has been one of progressive development.
In 2007, China launched a communications satellite for Nigeria. The satellite was described as the first of its kind in Africa. The relationship that exists between both countries has since transverse into Lagos State, leading to the construction of some signature projects that have been beneficial to both China and Lagos State. Via the construction of major roads in Lagos, China has continued to maintain presence through the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC).
While China gets foreign exchange earned in Lagos, those who ply the roads and other projects constructed by CCECC get to be delivered from the nightmares they have long endured. In the case of the Lagos Blue Rail, it has reduced the ever increasing traffic menace in Lagos State, transporting 250,000 passengers daily and a projected 500,000 passengers daily when completed. The Blue Rail Line project is part of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a joint construction work between the Chinese and Lagos governments.
Before the Lagos Blue Rail was built, it took Lagos resident Bunmi Aliyu three hours to commute to work each day. She had to take three different buses, and she often got stuck in traffic. “It was very stressful,” Bunmi said. “I would often be late for work, and I would be exhausted when I arrived home.” But now, thanks to the Lagos Blue Rail, Bunmi’s commute takes only 45 minutes. She can take the train directly from her home station to her workstation, and she never has to worry about traffic. “The Lagos Blue Rail has made a huge difference in my life,” Bunmi said. “Now I have more time to spend with my family and friends, and I’m not as stressed as I used to be.”
Speaking on the project constructed by CCECC, Engr. Mrs. Abimbola Akinajo – Managing Director, Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), highlighted the benefits commuters would enjoy to include comfort and journey time savings. “Our trains are air-conditioned. If you’re going from Mile 2 to Marina today, you will spend at least close to two hours on the road. That train will take you not more than 20 minutes depending on speed,” she said. The LAMATA MD also assured of security, adding that passengers will be safe on the Blue Line. “We have always had the visibility of CCTV in all our stations.
We are also working with Lagos Neighbourhood Watch, people who sort of mingle with the crowd, gather local intelligence, and understand what people are doing.” Furthermore, she described the project as a major achievement by the Lagos State gov- ernment under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and therefore urged Lagosians to protect the rail infrastructure from vandalism to avoid wasting the commonwealth investment. “I want to speak about owning this infra- structure. Let us not under any circumstance begin to vandalize it. If the state spends money three times on something that it is supposed to do once, then all of us will be the ones paying,” she said.
The Lagos Blue Rail is however not the project that Lagosians are celebrating, as the new international airport terminal also built by CCECC has taken away the stress once associated with international travel. The new international airport terminal has the capacity to accommodate millions of passengers annually. Typically, the Lagos Blue Rail and the new international airport terminal have positive impacts on Lagos’s economy and quality of life. Since becoming operational, new jobs have been created, the Lagos tourism industry has also witnessed a boost, while Lagosians have also found it easier to access the resources they need to succeed.
Another Chinese initiative in Lagos State that is worthy of mention is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global development strategy that aims to connect Asia, Europe, and Africa through trade and infrastructure. Also, cultural cooperation is also not an oddity as far as Lagos and China are concerned. It’s a sunny day in Lagos, Nigeria’s bustling megacity. The streets are filled with people, cars, and motorcycles. But amid the noise and chaos, there is a place where culture and harmony prevail. That place is the Huaxing Arts Troupe Nigeria (HATN), a Lagos-based institution that is dedicated to promoting cultural exchange between Nigeria and China.
Led by Dr. Eric Ni, a Chinese businessman and philanthropist, HATN is composed of talented Nigerian and Chinese performers who showcase the rich and diverse cultural heritage of both countries. Huaxing Arts Troupe Nigeria (HATN) regularly holds performances and cultural exchange programmes in schools, communities, and public venues across Lagos. The troupe performs traditional and contemporary dances, music, and drama from both countries and organises workshops and competitions for the participants. One of the recent events that HATN held was a cultural exchange programme for pupils of Federal Housing Primary School and Awoyaya Primary School, Victoria Island.
The event featured different onsite school activities such as cultural dance, martial arts display, musical drama, and other cultural performances. The pupils trouped out in their numbers to experience their local and Chinese cultural flavour. HATN also supported the schools with educational support materials just as some lucky students won mouthwatering prizes for their outstanding performances. Dr. Ni, who is also the chairman of Huaxing Arts Troupe Nigeria, said that the event was aimed at fostering mutual understanding and friendship between Nigeria and China through culture.
He said that culture is a powerful tool for promoting sustainable socio-economic development, as it can help to connect people, transcend borders, and language barriers, and it can also help to inculcate values such as respect, tolerance, and understanding. “Today, we have witnessed the power of cultural exchange, as our talented HuaXing Arts Troupe showcased the vibrant and mesmerizing Chinese cultural dances, while the students of these esteemed schools brought forth the rich and diverse tapestry of Nigerian culture,” Dr. Ni said. He added that it is through these exchange programmes that they learn to appreciate and celebrate their differences, fostering understanding and unity among their nations.
He also stressed that education is the gateway to a brighter future, and reiterated China’s commitment to continue to support the educational growth of Nigeria. With more China and Lagos-inspired projects in view, both sides are in for more prosperous years of positive achievement, setting the roadmap for Africa’s development.