Development of Chinese Special Economic Zones in Nigeria measured by Nighttime Light Data: How Does the Chinese Involvement in Nigerian SEZs Contribute to the Emission of Artificial Light Hence, the Economic Development, Compared to Domestic Zones?

Theresa Wiedmann

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of the thesis is to investigate how the Chinese involvement in Nigerian special economic zones (SEZs) impacts the emission of artificial light in the zones. Therefore, in accordance with several researchers, it is assumed that nighttime light (NTL) data can be used as proxy for economic development. This approach enjoys popularity especially in research areas where there is a lack of data which particularly comprises developing countries. In order to approach the topic, the economies of Nigeria and China were portrayed by paying special attention to their engagement with SEZs. Within these chapters, it could be ascertained that both nations are actively involved in domestic SEZs. Especially Chinese zones register impressive successes throughout the years and hence decided to export their concept. As Nigeria demonstrates an increasing economic growth and is considered as the largest economy on the African continent, the Chinese consequently started to build up SEZs on Nigerian grounds. Measuring the economic performance of such Chinese zones in Nigeria poses a particular challenge since there is neither Nigerian data on local level nor Chinese data on zones’ development or output. Therefore, the NTL data was used to measure the difference between Chinese SEZs in Nigeria compared to domestic SEZs. Despite hypothesising that there is a significantly higher development of artificial light in the Chinese zones, compared to the domestic zones, the statistical analysis did not show any supporting evidence. Consequently, reasons for the insignificant results were investigated. Finally, when scrutinising the assumption that NTL data can be used as a proxy for economic development, any proof for the case of Nigeria could be found. This outcome is surprising since several researchers consider it a valid proxy and applied this approach especially in the developing country context. With respect to the statistical results, the findings of the literature review come into focus with an emphasis on not only economical challenges in the Nigerian SEZs but also on political, structural and methodological issues. Hence, the major finding of the analysis is that a myriad of challenges is shaping the SEZs’ preconditions. Therefore, it can be discerned that despite the Chinese expertise in SEZ development, the Nigerian economy implies obstacles and impediments to building up SEZs and also businesses in general. As a result, first of all, Nigeria has to improve their infrastructure, gain technology knowledge, overcome power supply shortages and reduce poverty as well as corruption. Therefore, having China as a business partner, who aims to build up successful economic zones on Nigerian grounds, could help to mitigate the national constraints to doing business and thereby improve Nigeria’s location for business in general. Ultimately, it is acknowledged that the same study could have a better chance to show significant results if performed five to ten years later. Hence, the chosen period from 1992 until 2013 might have been too short to find significant results.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture - Business and Development Studies, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages94
SupervisorsAradhna Aggarwal