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On Tuesday, 28th November 2023, I engaged in a high-level meeting with the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jian Chun. The purpose was to explore potential partnerships and collaboration opportunities with the People’s Republic of China, focusing on enhancing trade and economic cooperation between the Southeast region of Nigeria and China.

Key points of discussion included the pressing need to review existing visa policies, identified as a significant obstacle for southeast businessmen traveling to China for business purposes. I emphasized the importance of removing these obstacles, emphasizing the need for a streamlined and efficient visa application process. Additionally, I stressed the need for China to establish a visa processing center in any of the five states in the Southeast region to simplify the application process.

The potential establishment of a solar farm and manufacturing solar panels in the Southeast region emerged as a focal point, aiming to expand the market and promote sustainable energy solutions. I highlighted the region’s readiness to embrace renewable energy initiatives and underscored the significance of leveraging solar energy for economic growth.

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There was also a focus on the easy importation of agricultural and industrial machinery to boost production and economic activities in the Southeast region. I emphasized the strategic importance of modernizing and enhancing the region’s industrial and agricultural sectors through the acquisition of advanced machinery and technology.

In addition to these discussions, other issues vital to the development of the Southeast region were brought to the table. These included education, healthcare infrastructure, and technological advancement. The need for collaboration in these areas was emphasized to ensure a holistic and comprehensive approach to the region’s development.

I further emphasized the crucial need for the transfer of knowledge, expertise, and technology in the partnership between China and the Southeast Governors Forum. The exchange of technological know-how would not only enhance productivity but also contribute to the overall development of the Southeast region.

In response, the Chinese Ambassador affirmed the importance of the visa policy review and expressed the Chinese government’s willingness to consider recommendations. He assured the commitment to providing an alternative to cushion the effects of these policies on businessmen seeking trade in China.

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In the realm of renewable energy, the Ambassador drew attention to the China-Africa Economic and Trade Promotion Council, expressing interest in exporting agricultural products from Nigeria to China and readiness to export solar panels and mini-grid solar farm machinery.

The issues relating to visa policy review and the establishment of the visa processing center were directed to the Executive Secretary General of China-Africa Economic and Trade Promotion Council for further deliberations.

The meeting underscored the shared commitment to explore and pursue strategic initiatives for trade, economic cooperation, and sustainable development. A follow-up meeting on 29th November with the China-Africa Economic and Trade Promotion Council discussed critical areas raised in previous meetings, marking success and ongoing plans for the finalization of the partnership to spur economic growth in the Southeast region of Nigeria.

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Furthermore, we also discussed the recently concluded Southeast security and Economic Summit initiated by the hard working Governors of the Southeast, where stakeholders and experts deliberated on key regional economic interests such as security, power, rail transport, manufacturing and much more.The outcomes of these crucial discussions, outlining the needed areas for development have been submitted to the Southeast governors and very soon actionable plans and time lines will be developed for implementations as recommended. The governors, recognizing the significance of this partnership in addressing the multifaceted development needs of the region, are poised to key into these initiatives in no distant time.

I remain optimistic that stakeholders will offer their immense support in recognition of the commendable efforts our hardworking governors are making to improve the well-being of the region.

Sen. Uche Ekwunife, PhD, CON (Iyom) Director General, Southeast Governors’ Forum

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