Rethinking Nigeria’s Economic Diplomacy
By: Idumange John
At independence, most African states emphasized the use of politics to further their foreign
policy objectives. A foremost proponent of this ideological inclination was Dr.
Kwame Nkrumah. This is predicated on his famous dictum “seek ye first the
political kingdom and all the rest will follow”. Thus the newly independent
states were at a great cost to issues of economic development. At independence,
however, most African states failed to give attention to addressing their
economic problems through foreign policy. Perhaps this failure was due to the
fact that most of them were initially pre-occupied with urgent political
problems related, among others, to the consolidation of political independence,
territorial integrity, and eradication of colonialism, racism and apartheid.
While these lofty objectives were pursued, the economies of African states witnessed low
productivity, incurred huge debt and suffered phenomenal shortfall in balance
of payment positions. Fifty years down the line, Africa recorded stunted
economic growth and has largely remained as a periphery of the capitalist
countries. The under-development or rather stagnation of Africa is largely
blamed for the leaders’ inability to pursue sustainable and virile economic
Diplomacy is the art of conducting and implementing foreign policy. It is the process by
which diplomats seek to achieve foreign-policy goals through the
instrumentality of negotiations and bargaining by State and non-State actors.
The essence of diplomacy is bargaining, which involves the use of both the
carrot and the stick. Because of the importance attached to economic diplomacy,
some nations appoint highly specialized commercial diplomats.
Economic welfare is a key preoccupation of the foreign and domestic policies of a state.
In Marxian perspective, the economy of a nation constitutes the superstructure
of the State. It is the economy that determines the ideological values,
contours and national interest of State
policy. No economic system, be it capitalism of the West, the command economies
of the East or the mixed economic models of Africa, Asia and Latin America can
survive without some economic diplomacy of sort.
The centrality of the role of economics in the wellbeing a nation cannot be
over-emphasized. This explains why the entire gamut of diplomacy has shifted
from political issues to commercial diplomacy. This has become more imperative
because of globalization, and the interconnected world made possible by
information and communication technology. Thus diplomacy has shifted from
political issues to ‘commercial diplomacy’, which embraces foreign trade,
external investments, financial flows, aid, bilateral and multilateral economic
negotiations and technology exchanges.
Economic diplomacy is the decision-making, policy-making and advocating of a State’s business
interest. Economic diplomacy requires application of technical expertise that
analyze the effects of a country's
economic situation on its political climate and environment. Economic
diplomacy is derived from the prevailing domestic environment. Nigeria’s
characterized by unfavourable economic indicators. Economic diplomacy refers
to the foreign policy support to
government’s goal of economic revival and sustainable development.
The use of political influence and relationships to promote and/or influence international trade and investments, to improve on
functioning of markets and/or to address market failures and to reduce costs
and risks of cross border transactions.
Typically this subfield of economic diplomacy comprises commercial
policy, but also many activities of non governmental organizations are relevant under this heading.
The use of economic assets and relationships to increase the cost of conflict
and to strengthen the mutual benefits of cooperation and politically stable
relationships, to increase economic security.
Olu Adeniji observes that “the more affluent and self-reliant the economy is, the greater the
possibility for a more independent and influential policy”. Not only are
African states unable to exercise adequate influence on world events, they are in
most cases, compelled to re-order their foreign policy goals to accord with
domestic economic strength and external interests. Because of Nigeria’s mono-product
economy, the nation’s ability to generate and expend power in the international
system is very limited. For example, Nigeria is the largest producer of crude
oil in Africa and the sixth largest oil produces in the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), yet the Human Development Report of the
United Nations shows that over 70 percent of the 150 million people live below
the poverty line.
Successive administrations have not been able to harness their economic potentials hence
the over-dependence on crude oil and the resource curse syndrome. Our
over-dependence on crude oil since 1960 shows that the Nigerian economy is in
the hands of the capitalist hawks who determine the price of crude oil in the
international oil market. The implication is that policy-makers are not in full
control of the macro-economic variables that can serve as a push factor of the
economy. Thus expected goals and targets are either tangentially omitted or
never met at all. Nigeria is not set to benefit from globalization because even
when Nigeria deregulates her economy, there is nothing tangible the nation is
producing to expand her economic space. That is why Nigeria has entered into a
plethora of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements but lacks the political
will to create an atmosphere to support Foreign Direct Investment. Nigeria is
at best an economic “colony” or “appendage” of the US and the European Union
(EU), even bourgeois revisionism cannot dispute this fact.
These strong economic blocs woo the LDCs with a Promise of enlarging their economic space
but they lack the institutional genes and capacity to benefit optimally from
globalization. Presently, Nigeria cannot evolve any sustainable economic model
to escape the poverty-insecurity nexus. On the contrary, we are running a war
economy, with all indices such as infant and maternal mortality,
life-expectancy rate, unemployment and low productivity as signals that we are
inching towards the slippery slope of failure. In the nearest future, the
formal economic space will be narrow even as the criminal economy expands
The capitalist countries in control of the financial giants pretend to encourage good governance in the LDCs, but
they surreptitiously promote ineptitude by granting corrupt leaders and
kleptocrats dead weight loans. The giant money lenders know that the LDCs have
no strong institutions to use the monies to catalyze development. When such
kleptocrats do not feel secure at home they repatriate such monies by stashing
them away into coded accounts offshore. Some leaders die and such monies cannot
be traced , yet the LDCs are compelled to grapple with such heavy debt burdens.
It is a neo-classical, neoliberal economic slavery.
Since 2007, Nigeria has been professing a new foreign policy
paradigm tagged “Citizenship Diplomacy”
was unfolded by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, yesterday.
It is geared towards “protecting” the image and integrity of Nigeria and
retaliates against countries who are hostile and who brand Nigeria as “corrupt”.
Ojo Maduekwe administered the foreign Affairs Ministry as though he came down
from outer space. He ran like Hussein Bolt without momentum. Besides, he could
not rid the Ministry of the stench, but he has not been summoned by the
The much orchestrated Citizens diplomacy did not witness any fundamental and Nigerians
never derived an ounce of benefitted from it. Contrary to the goals of the
diplomatic, Nigeria has remained a beggarly nation, with a moribund economy,
near collapse of the formal economy and the flourishing of the criminal economy
such as oil bunkering, illicit drug trafficking, money laundering and a very
high corruption index. The Nigerian economy is gradually running out of steam,
as the real sectors have been suffocated.
The Breton Woods system, to which the economic future of Nigeria is weeded, does not take into consideration the interests of
most of the developing countries, especially in Africa who at the time were yet
to be independent actors in the international system,. Accordingly, after
achieving political independence, developing countries began to demand
equitable terms of participation in international economic relations. These
demands crystallized in what became known in 1974 as the call for a “New International Economic Order” (NIEO).
This call failed to produce positive results for most developing countries, due
mainly to the lukewarm response of the industrialized countries.
Nigeria is underdeveloped because all indicia of underdevelopment such as inflation, low
standard of living, population explosion, and unemployment characterize the
economy. Other negative variables include postage stamp cultivation, shortage
of human capital in critical areas, political instability and its attendant
stagnating negative multipliers. Life expectancy rate in Nigeria has regressed
from 51 years to 47 years. It is about
the lowest in Sub Saharan-Africa. And because of the high level of unemployment,
dependency ratio is 1:14. The poverty index in Nigeria is unimaginable and
unacceptable. While insecurity of lives and property haunts all strata of the
population, corruption has eroded what was left of public morality and
Because of the problem of severe resources, to seek
greener pastures. More than 80 percent of youth (graduates inclusive) is victim
to mass unemployment. While there is exponential expansion of the educational
system, quality has been compromised hence the school system produces graduates
that can hardly meet the demands of the dynamic economy. Besides, Nigeria is
not industrializing, even as existing industries are mismanaged and rendered
insolvent by self-aggrandizing leaders. The implication is that Nigeria imports
everything ranging from computer hardware, textiles, office pins, touch light,
designer toothpicks, razor blades to killer generators from countries that were
at the same level of development about 30 years ago. This trend will be
exacerbated because we have collectively entrenched leaders in power who have
no moral guiding principles
If the present conditions persist, the scourge of poverty would reach unimaginable dimensions. The
conditions in urban centres would also worsen with more shantytowns, more
congested roads, more beggars and more delinquents. The level of the unemployed
searching desperately for the means to survive would amply increase crime rates
and misery. The very consequences of extreme poverty would be social tension
and unrest. As a result, the very notion of national sovereignty would be at
The cumulative effect of Africa’s growing economic crisis is her worsening political
marginalization, with the component states playing peripheral roles in the
global scheme of activities. Historically, Africa had always come last behind
Asia, Latin America and the industrialized countries in the world scale of
wealth and development. Presently, this gap between Africa and the other
regions has grown even wider, thus lending credence to Jennifer Whitaker’s
description of their status as “pre-modern states in a post-modern World”.
In the face of persistent economic difficulties, the objective question, which all governments
had to address in Africa, is how to salvage their economies from the deep
morass in which they find themselves. Similarly, and related to this question
was what role foreign policy should play in the process of economic revival? Is
it expected, in these trying times, that states should, in their foreign
policies, continue to allow un-economic matters to predominate in their
The present reality demands that we take a new look at our diplomacy and make a radical departure from an
economically passive diplomacy to a more pro-active, functional and dynamic
foreign policy. Nigeria has to In
pursuing effective diplomacy, Nigeria needs to all the national energies efforts
should be aimed at taking our country to a new and higher economic and
technological height. Indeed, it is only in this way that our economic survival
can be assured. The success or failure of foreign policy is directly related to
a state’s capability to build a dynamic economy. Nigeria’s diplomacy is
gradually failing, and the nation has been overtaken by South Africa because of
the bogey of cumulative management occasioned by corruption.
The foreign policy of any State is designed mainly to protect and advance the national
interest of the people. According to Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American naval
officer, “Self-interest is not only legitimate, but a fundamental, cause for
national policy; one which needs no cloak of hypocrisy.” As a principle, it
does not require justification. Nigeria’s national power is the most important
of all interstate controls, and the role of power is central to foreign policy.
Decisions concerning national interest should always be made on the basis of
concrete national economic advantage rather than on moralistic, legalistic or
ideological criteria. Since Nigeria has lost her competitive edge as the
economic leader of Africa, Nigeria’s foreign policy formulators and operators
should rethink the nation’s diplomacy along the lines of her economic interest.
The change is imperative if Nigeria must meet the MDGs and vision 20:2020.
Idumange John, is a Fellow, Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats, London