Filed in TOURISM by on October 17, 2010

China Town: What you want is what you get
Sunday, 17 Oct 2010

At the China Shopping Complex in Ojota, Lagos, some shops are rented for as much $7,700 (N1.17m) per annum. Yet, the bad reputation of Chinese products in Nigeria trails this market, popularly called ‘China Town.‘ There, EMMANUEL ONYECHE encounters Chinese and Nigerian traders who say that in Chinese markets all over the world, the quality you want is the quality you get Looking atop the building of the Ojota China Shopping Complex, popularly called ‘China Town‘ from across the Ketu/Oworonshoki Expressway, you can‘t miss the green-white-green Nigerian flag and that of China, which is predominantly red with dots of yellow stars.

As you approach the gate, you are greeted with the inscription, ”Long live Nigeria-China Friendship,” etched on the side of a wall, which further reminds you of the friendly and economic bond between the two countries and inclines your mind to what to expect when you get inside.

You are not disappointed as you notice Chinese and Nigerian nationals mingling freely in shops and within the vicinity of the sprawling two-storey market that is owned by a Chinese man named Jackson and painted in red — a colour the Chinese believe brings good luck and blessing.

A problem of communication arises as the first three Chinese people you engage in impromptu chats do not speak English.Where in the world are you going to find a Chinese who speaks English or a Nigerian who speaks Chinese? You wonder.

You get directed to the shop of Mrs. Chen and you meet her husband, Mike, there. Mr. Chen, a delightful personality who read Business English and International Trade in a Chinese university, tells you in perfect English that he has been in Nigeria for five years and that he is a member of the Nigeria-China Business Council where he acts as official interpreter.

Mike‘s wife is called Princess and the Chinese owner of the complex is called Jackson. Where did the Chinese get these kinds of names? You ask Mr. Chen and he tells you that they are adopted names that make things easier within the enclave called Nigeria. ”In China, we go back to our original names,” he says.

Chen, relieving a short history of how ‘China Town‘ came to be said that though Hong Kong became part of China in 1997, the first of Chinese to come to Nigeria were actually from Hong Kong and that they have been in Nigeria for over 30 years. He mentioned popular manufacturing companies such as WAHUM and WAMCO as being established by these set of people.

”The main Chinese people started to come to Nigeria from 1998 and this was 20 years after the Chinese economy (locked since 1978) was opened. When they came, there was no organised China market for them and this led to the establishment of the first China market in highbrow Ikoyi,” he says.

Soon, the big shots at Ikoyi kicked and the Ojota China market — inaugurated in 2005 by the former First Lady, late Mrs. Stella Obasanjo — came into being.

Two years before then (2003), Chen says, Chinese trade in Nigeria was booming and that the establishment of the market in 2005 crowned it. ”Then, all the shops were occupied by Nigerians and Chinese,” he says.

Presently, activities at the market have witnessed a downturn, as Chen says not all the shops are recently occupied. He says Chinese shop owners outnumber their Nigerian counterparts by 50 per cent. ”About 60 Chinese and 30 Nigerians have shops in this complex”, he says.

Mr. Afam Nwejike, Chen‘s friend and a notable importer of goods from China, gave a clue to probably why all the shops are not occupied. Rent per annum per shop can be as high as $7,700 (N1.17m). This, he says, is inclusive of service charge. ”The Chinese people give us Nigerians discount in service charges. They pay N35,000 per month, while we pay N25,000. With that money, you enjoy uninterrupted electricity, good security as well as other maintenance services,” he says.

Chen and Nwejike agree that the 2005 closure of the complex by men of the Nigerian Customs and Excise, on allegations that someone imported contraband, also contributed to the downturn of business at the complex. ”There are still some people who still do not know that this place has reopened for business,” Nwejike says.

He stated that there was also a lot of multiple taxation by the Nigerian authorities who were hardly bothered because the place is owned by a Chinese. Chen and Nwejike also agree that the general economic recession worldwide has also affected the market.

Chen particularly mentioned the fact that many Chinese are diversifying their businesses from trading to manufacturing, which the Nigerian government favours. ”When you make the first pot of Gold, you use it to plan and establish big business,” he says, quoting a Chinese proverb.

He says many Nigerians are also travelling directly to China now to import whatever they want. ”But overall, Nigeria-China business is still worth over $100bn,” he says.

Still, Afam and Chen had to answer the big question concerning the alleged pervasive inferior goods in the market.

In this regard, Chen was unbelievably frank. He says Chinese control of their export is not very strict and that it is the country where the goods are intended that has to enforce compliance to strict standards.

”For example, you just can‘t export anything that does not meet the required standards to Europe and America. Even when such goods leave the shores of China, they are not allowed to get into these countries. But Nigerian businessmen are very corrupt. You can clear anything from the Nigerian ports — arms, even human beings,” he says.

He added that the Standards Organisation of Nigeria did not strongly regulate what came into the country.

He and Nwejike then made references to the poverty factor. Chen said, ”A banker can afford to buy a suit worth N50,000 because he can afford it; but what about the majority of Nigerians who are either unemployed or earn between N10,000 and N15,000 per month? Such people need pairs of shoes that go for N500 and little money for T-Shirts.”

He says Chinese markets recognise this fact and therefore have different goods for different categories of people. As strict as the European and the American markets are, China still has products that meet their standards, he says.

Nwejike says what the Chinese have done is to make these products which otherwise would be out of the reach of the masses affordable. They produce according to the quality that you want. He mentioned that in China Town, there are suits that cost as much as N25,000 and others that can be bought for between N6,000 and N7,000.

”The lowest paid Nigerian can come here and buy something, just like the highest paid,” he says

Nwejike, who hopes to go into manufacturing eventually, advises Nigerians to patronise made in Nigeria goods, saying China, which has become very big today, started by copying the products of other people.

At China Town, several cheap and beautiful items that can attract the attention of any buyer include lace materials, electronic items, damask, shoes, handbags, Christmas decorations, ceramics, perfumes and baby wear, among others.

Buyers say that the low and affordable prices of products at this market are the main attraction.

Monsuru Aina, an architect, says she is a regular visitor to the market and that with N2,500 or N3,000, she could buy a 12-yard textile lace material, as against the price of between N8,000 and N10,000 in a typical Nigerian market.

It was said that about 1,000 Nigerians have, so far, gained employment as attendants at the market; and each of these youths earns at least between N10,000 and N25,000 per month as salary, based on their level of education.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Rose Idowu says:

    pls can i get polyester fabric to by in china town and at what buying in large quantity.thank u._

Nigerian free classifieds
Forum | Jobs | News | Privacy | Contact: nbf(at)