There are cries that China’s is a new imperialism. If so, at least it is new and not trapped in a stagnant history of ex-colonisers and their ex-colonies. Hearteningly, China does not hide its wish to make profit out of its dealings with Africa behind altruism or religion or paternalism. Thus, if indeed we are witnessing a 21st-century attempt to colonise Africa once more, at least there will be no hegemony to destroy when the fight for independence begins. But if China’s dealings in Africa do not point to an attempt to make Beijing a metropolis, then it is better not to recast the Chinese arrival in Lagos as the second act of the British landing in Eko; it is better that history serves as merely a loose reference for dealing with foreign powers.
Or perhaps the best way to proceed is to work in tandem with the past and the future. In Nigeria, where the power industry is being privatised, the Chinese Nigeria Power Consortium has won the bid for the Sapele power plant. It consists of Nigerian, Chinese and UK companies and thus maybe we can hope that all cultural and historical sensibilities will be preserved, while constant electricity is generated.