Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Thursday called for strengthening mutual trust and deepening cooperation with China on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to develop Nigeria’s digital space.
Osinbajo made the call in his address at the opening of a one-day workshop on ‘‘Africa-China cooperation in Information Technology and Digital Economy: prospects and challenges’’ on Thursday in Abuja.
The workshop was organised by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in collaboration with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria.
Osinbajo, represented by Mr Lanre Osibona, Special-Assistant to Vice President on ICT, said this is important because of need to harness benefits in use of ICT, to promote Nigeria’s economic growth.
‘‘I emphasise this point because we need to understand the importance of why we are driving digital economy; we are not into this because of the buds, but the inherent benefits.
‘‘I am hopeful that the collaboration we have had with the China will be leveraged upon and deepened, as well as the gains that it brings about.
‘‘There is a whole lot that we have to learn from each other, we have a number of similarities, a number of population and cultural differences.
‘‘We can learn a whole lot more, we want to work closely with China in achieving this, we also want to be part of doing business in innovative regulatory framework.’’
Osinbajo urged China to invest on board to further assist Nigeria move forward in ICT development, without taking away from what had been achieved in the technology space.
According to the Vice President, Nigeria is open for business with China and we would want to deepen the relationship between us and even drive it further.
Speaking, Dr Zhou Pingjian, Ambassador of China to Nigeria, said that his country would remain committed to cooperate with Africa in ICT and digital economy.
He noted that the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Johannesburg Action plan of 2016-2018 provide room for both countries to partner on ICT and build information society in the continent.
He quoted President Muhammadu Buhari, to have expressed hope in the China-Africa cooperation through his felicitation to President Xi Jinping, on occasion of Chinese Lunar year in February.
‘‘I am looking forward to China hosting the forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in Beijing in September this year and believe it will bring us success and mutual benefits.
‘‘We believe Buhari’s attendance at the upcoming FOCAC, Beijing summit will provide an important opportunity for further development of China-Nigeria strategic partnership,’’ Pingjian said.
In a remark, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, said that Nigeria is left with option but to show commitment to the Johannesburg and summit.
Onyeama, represented by Mr John Shaga, Acting-Director, Asia and Pacific Division of the Ministry, said that there is need to emphasis cooperation in ICT and to build smart cities.
According to him, leveraging on ICT has become key to Nigeria’s quest towards attaining sustainable goals, especially in its human development capital
‘‘Also in all other sectors as been propagated in the nation’s diversification policy, economic recovery and growth plan of the current administration,’’ Onyeama said.
He noted that although the bilateral relations between Nigeria and China were established in 1971, FOCAC had significantly imparted positively in diverse areas of human endeavours.
In separate remark, the Minister of Communication, Mr Adebayo Shittu, commended investment in ICT to have brought about rapid growth in Nigeria, and Africa at large.
‘‘Access to telephony services has grown at a density of more than eight per cent in main Africa countries, this progress has based on rapid investment in infrastructure by Chinese companies.
‘‘In Nigeria, the revolution in ICT sector has provided 32 billion dollars in foreign direct investment over the past 15 years,’’ Shittu said.
The high point of the workshop were series of discussions on partnering ICT in Africa’s development, knowledge sharing and digital sustainability in Nigeria.