The once thriving Abuja-Beijing relationship has hit problems
The catastrophic failure in November of Nigeria’s US$340 million, Chinese-built satellite NIGCOMSAT-1, launched only a year ago, is the latest, most visible indication of increasing difficulties between Beijing and its most sought-after and elusive partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The communications satellite project had symbolised China’s success in doing business with the region’s largest oil producer, offering technology and capital either unforthcoming from established partners or with fewer political strings. But the failure of the satellite’s power unit after a short time – and criticism of the project’s cost and implementation – suggests serious problems.
The satellite fiasco came amid growing tensions over private and state contracts. On 20 November, Tanimu Yakubu, Chief Economic Advisor to Nigeria’s President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, announced the government may cancel an $8.3 billion railway modernisation contract agreed in 2006 with China Civil Engineering and Construction Company.
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