Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will sign a loan deal with China during a visit next week, his spokesperson said on Wednesday, helping to finance badly-needed infrastructure projects. “I can’t tell you how much until the day the loan will be signed,” spokesman Femi Adesina said. “Both countries will also be signing some bilateral agreements to strengthen their relationship, that is all I can say now.”
Nigeria, which has been hit hard by a slump in oil prices, has been in talks with China’s state export import bank for a loan for months. A financial source said the loan would fund construction works of Chinese firms for infrastructure projects in Nigeria. In February, financial and government sources said the loan could be as high a US$ 2bn but officials have not provided an update since then. Nigeria has said it wants to raise about $5bn abroad to cover part of its 2016 budget deficit which could be as high as 3trn naira (US$ 15bn). Buhari has not signed the 2016 budget bill yet as he still awaits details from parliament which passed it last month.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang had earlier said in Beijing that Buhari would visit China from April 11-15 to sign “cooperation agreements” and attend a business forum. He gave no details. Buhari, who was elected in March 2015 on a promise to fix mismanagement and corruption, wants to turn around the economy by investing in power plants, transport and infrastructure. Chinese construction firms have been upgrading Abuja airport and building several railway projects in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy. In November, Nigeria’s agriculture minister said he hoped China would to set up 40 rice mills as Buhari wanted to expand the farming sector. Nigeria has said it wanted to raise $1bn from Eurobond investors but no deal has publicly emerged.
Analysts say Nigeria’s reluctance to devalue the naira currency, which has plunged on the black market, might discourage investors which expect such a move to happen eventually.