Broad Chinese Support for Nigerian Railway Raises Questions of Political Influence

China’s dominant role in the construction of Nigeria’s new rail infrastructure has reportedly produced key geopolitical gains for Beijing in the form of the closure of Taiwan’s trade office, reaffirmation of the One China policy and a right of first refusal to the country’s oil concessions.  China’s role in the infrastructure itself also provides access to transportation connecting Lagos to Nigeria’s interior as well as oil-producing areas in the southern part of the country.

Chinese entities have implemented all facets of Nigeria’s railway development, including its financing in the form of a $1.275 billion loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, which precipitated the granting of right of first refusal access to four oil blocks in Nigerian waters.  That loan was also cited as being used to persuade Nigerian authorities to shift policy on Taiwan as noted above.  Most recently, on March 5, CRRC Tangshan Corporation announced that the third and final batch of 32 passenger carriages for Nigeria’s Lagos-Ibadan railway line were ready to be shipped from Tianjin.  In total, CRRC is supplying 60 carriages for the railway, which was built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

The role of Chinese state-owned enterprises in all aspects of Nigeria’s railway development – from financing to supplying equipment – raises concerns about the associated leverage.