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China and Nigeria Sign a $12 Billion Rail Project, Expanding Their Cooperation

Nov. 20, 2014 (EIRNS)—A Chinese company signed a $12 billion rail deal yesterday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, according to a Xinhua report. The 1,400-km-long line, with 22 stops, will follow the coast, establishing a rail link between Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria, across the Niger delta to Port Harcourt, the center of oil production in the eastern part of the country.

This is China’s single biggest contract overseas, according to Xinhua. The signing makes official the agreement that was reached last May during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang. Li had said during his visit that "Nigeria emphasizes development of railway and other infrastructure while China possesses technical strength and rich experience in this regard," Li said. He was on a tour of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, and Kenya, at the time, emphasizing infrastructural development.

Nigeria is currently China’s third-biggest trading partner in Africa, according to the bricspost.com. In 2013, China-African trade increased to $210.3 billion, making China Africa’s largest trade partner for five years in a row. Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, and South Africa are the two most powerful economies on the continent.

Nigerian Transport Minister Idris Audu Umar signed the contract with the China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC). CRCC head Meng Fengchao said that the company will use the latest technologies and rail products in the project. At the same time, CRCC is working on a several-billion-dollar rail-modernization project in Nigeria, along with road-building projects and expansion of the Murtalla Mohammed International Airport in Lagos.

The 120km/hr line is the first part of a Nigerian project to build a nation-wide high-speed rail system which is intended to eventually serve most of Nigeria. In addition to the link to Port Harcourt, lines are to be established linking Lagos to Kano, Kaduna, and Bauchi in the northern part of the country, as well as the capital, Abuja. The major petroleum hub in the South, Warri, will be connected to the transport grid by the Lagos-Port Harcourt line.

The Lagos-Port Harcourt project will create up to 200,000 jobs, according to Xinhua. As many as 30,000 permanent positions will be created when the project is finished.

China is putting itself at the forefront of collaboration with Africa in railroad building, by using its latest high-speed rail technology and its latest steel products, and by making these rail projects possible through funding mechanisms. High-tech rail for Africa was advocated by Li during his May tour. As a result of implementation of projects such as these, the era of Africa being the dedicated preserve of Europe and North American is rapidly being threatened.