Photograph — The Business Times

As a way of finding solutions to the current currency slump in Nigeria, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) and Nigeria’s Central Bank have signed a deal on Yuan transactions. Recently, many Nigerians have found it exceedingly difficult to pay for services like education and healthcare in other countries, due to the weak Naira, and this deal is an attempt to resuscitate the currency.

Reuters reports that the director general of the African affairs department of China’s foreign ministry, Lin Songtian, said the deal meant the Yuan will flow freely around Nigerian banks and will even be included in the country’s foreign exchange reserves. This deal is one of the outcomes of the meetings between Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Xi Jinping of China, during the Nigeria-China Business/Investment Forum in Beijing, China.

Aside from the financial investments China has made in agriculture and infrastructure in Nigeria, the deal will provide a way for both countries to settle trade agreements in the Yuan. It appears that President Buhari is determined to transform Nigeria into an exporting country as opposed to a primarily consuming one, saying it is high time the country started exporting to China.

However, this is the not the first time Nigeria has made attempts to include the Yuan into its foreign exchange reserves.

In 2011, under the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a small percentage of the country’s foreign reserves were in the Chinese Yuan. At the time, Nigeria’s $32 billion in reserves were 79 percent in dollars with the rest largely held in Euros and Swiss francs.

Bloomberg reports that Sanusi was cited saying the decision came because the Nigerian financial sector had a lot of confidence in the Chinese currency. “Confidence in China doesn’t mean lack of confidence in America. Europe and America will continue to be important parts of the world. Having said that, it will be almost living in a dream world to ignore China. It’s the second-largest economy in the world and it’s well managed,” Sanusi said.

In 2014, Central Bank’s deputy governor, Kingsley Moghalu, said the bank was looking to increase the percentage of Yuan foreign reserves in its possession from 2 percent to 7 percent. According to him, 85 percent of its foreign reserves were in dollars and it needed to have more in Chinese Yuan, as the country was taking a more important place in global trade. “It was clear to us that the future of international economics and trade will shift in large part to business with and by China. Ultimately the renminbi (Yuan) is likely to become a global convertible currency,” Moghalu said.

Now, the question is, will this integration of the Yuan help to shore up the Naira as intended by the president? The answer lies in the tentative decision that African countries are taking to dump the US Dollar as the prevailing currency in their foreign reserves. Since 2014, the world market has recognised the Yuan as a likely global reserve currency, a replacement for the dollar, which has led countries like Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe to integrate the renminbi (Yuan) into their financial markets. As a result of this, trade (however imbalanced) has increased between certain countries on the continent and China,  as well as providing a fertile ground for demand for the currency on the continent.


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