At the beginning of April this year, as Nigeria was scrambling to track coronavirus cases and dealing with tanking oil prices, a rare spot of good economic news made headlines: A deep sea port project under construction in Lagos, financed by the China Development Bank and African Development Bank, was to receive a $221 million equity investment injection from the China Harbour Engineering Company. The company is one of several shareholders in the project, along with the Nigerian Ports Authority.
For Yunnan Chen, a senior researcher in development and public finance at the Overseas Development Institute who specializes in China-Africa relations, the port is illustrative of the ways in which Africa’s relationship with China was changing prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The monolithic idea of the China-Africa relationship that arose in the 2000s is becoming more nuanced these days,” Chen says. “We’re seeing more long-term participation of Chinese companies in these infrastructure projects, rather than the previously more ‘turn-key, build it, turn it over to the government model’ that much of African infrastructure was previously constructed through.”