Nigerian Engineers Study in China to Drive Power Sector Back Home

Nigerian engineers study during a training session in a factory of Huaye Group in the city of Anshan, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Oct. 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Yang Qing)

SHENYANG (Xinhua) — What does electricity mean for 41-year-old Ajayi? It means everything from watching a soccer game without interruption and running a successful bakery to bringing real prosperity to his hometown in Nigeria.

This is why Ajayi and 59 other Nigerian engineers departed the West African nation and traveled over 10,000 km to learn the transformer manufacturing in China.

Two months have passed since Ajayi arrived in a factory of Huaye Group in the city of Anshan, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, one of the heartlands of China’s heavy industry. The Nigerian engineer is well adapted to this new life.

“If a power station is compared to a heart, then the transformers are the vessels that carry the blood. Now, we don’t have the ability to produce and repair these vessels on our own,” Ajayi said. “As an engineer, I have a dream to change this situation and provide sufficient electricity for my country.”

Dream of Stable Electricity Supply

With a rapidly growing population and increasing demand for electricity, the outdated Nigerian grid system is overwhelmed.

“As a soccer fan, I was extremely frustrated when I watched a match on TV, but the electricity supply was suddenly cut off,” Ajayi said.

Living in Abuja, capital of Nigeria, Ajayi sometimes had to use an electric generator to keep the TV running.

A generator is a necessity for many Nigerians. His wife, Benedicta, runs a bakery. “Most times, I run the power generator to make cakes ordered by my customers,” she said, adding that with a steady grid, her bakery could cut its electricity costs by at least 80 percent.

Nigerian engineers study during a training session in a factory of Huaye Group in the city of Anshan, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Oct. 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Yang Qing)

In the Chinese “school,” Wang Yi is the idol of Ajayi. Speaking fluent English, the 39-year-old staff of Huaye Group is the teacher of the Nigerian trainees.

Nigerian engineers study during a training session in a factory of Huaye Group in the city of Anshan, northeast China’s Liaoning Province, Oct. 14, 2019. (Xinhua/Yang Qing)

“Although they lack professional knowledge about transformers, they are all very serious and hard-working,” Wang said.

When Imadu, another Nigerian engineer, could not distinguish phase resistance and line resistance, Wang first changed the obscure professional vocabulary into clear English words. Then he explained the theory through a circuit diagram while taking Imadu through a workshop.

Imadu was suddenly enlightened. “Teacher Wang is great! He can do anything!”

“Knowledge is stored in my head, and no one can take it away,” Imadu said. “With powerful and stable electricity, Nigeria’s economy can grow faster and better.”

“Teaching How to Fish”

The story of 60 engineers has attracted attention in Nigeria. Recently, Kierian Umeayo, a reporter from the Nigerian Television Authority, traveled to Anshan to make a documentary about these trainees.

“We are going to tell the audience that these 60 engineers are not here as tourists. They are studying hard,” he said, hoping them to teach more Nigerians to make, install and maintain transformers.

After returning to Nigeria, the engineers will work in an industrial park, which includes three transformer production plants and associated equipment factories.

With a total investment of 300 million U.S. dollars, the park was jointly constructed by Huaye Group and China Great Wall Industry Corporation.

“The completion of the industrial park will change Nigeria’s inability to produce power transmission and transformation equipment on its own, and the products will also be exported to other African countries,” said Ma Liming, chairman of Huaye Group.

As the ancient proverb says: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Ma said this training is only the initial stage of the program, and more Nigerian talents will study in China in the future.

It has been a year since China proposed eight major initiatives at the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to elevate cooperation between the world’s largest developing country and the largest developing continent.

The eight initiatives cover various fields such as industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

China decided to work with Africa to set up 10 Luban workshops, a program designed to provide state-of-the-art technical and vocational training, on the continent, the first of which has already been established and opened in Djibouti.

Nigerian presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said Nigeria has suffered a long-term deficit in power supply, which is a major obstacle in the country’s way of economic diversification.

“We expect the engineers to bring home what they have learned in China, and I’m sure they will do something in manufacturing indigenous electric devices and alleviating power shortage of the country,” Shehu said.

As a father of two, Ajayi calls his family every day. He told his kids that he had a mission — to create a life without electric generators for the family, and he believes that day will come soon.

(Reporting by Ren Yaoting, Cheng Lu, Xu Yang, Wang Bingkun, Cui Shihao and Guo Jun; video editors Li Ziwei and Gao Ming)