We have heard about China’s occupation of a deepwater port in Sri Lanka as part of its Belt & Road initiative, often referred to as the “debt trap”. But are we facing another similar situation? This time, the regime’s eyes are on Africa.

State-run China Harbour Engineering has just finished the Lekki deepwater port project in Nigeria. 

It will be one of the biggest deepwater ports in West Africa and help Nigeria meet the growing demand from large vessels.

As a major project of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, this is also the first modern deepwater port in the Gulf of Guinea that is controlled by a Chinese state-run enterprise.

According to the South China Morning Post, Lekki Port has an investment of $1.5 billion under a public-private partnership model. China Harbour Engineering owns a majority share with over 52%, Singapore-based Tolaram Group owns over 22%, while local Nigerian Port Authority holds mere 5%.

The Port of Lekki opened in 2020, and has been franchised for 45 years. The port can handle 18,000 TEU container vessels, with 1.2 million TEUs throughput per year.

Biodun Dabiri is the chairman of the port’s board. He said that Lekki Port can handle larger ships with draughts of up to 54 feet. This can turn Nigeria into the region’s transshipment hub.

However, this July, Nigeria is included into a list of 12 countries that may default in debts due to high government bond yields, a weakening currency, and a drop in foreign exchange reserves. 

As of June, China was Nigeria’s largest creditor, having lent $3.9 billion to the country. The default crisis has gotten even with the weak global economy and high inflation.

In October, hundreds of people in Nigeria died in the worst flooding in a decade. 

As the cost of living is going up and the government is tightening its currency and budget, the IMF downgraded Nigeria’s economic growth this year by 3.4% to 3.2%. 

Mai Farid, an IMF Africa analyst, said that the floods will worsen food insecurity and lead to further rising food prices. 

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