Nigeria, a vibrant and populous nation of over 220m people, benefits from a rich cultural heritage, robust economy, and diverse natural resources, and stands as a gateway to numerous opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. It also shares a deep historical connection with the Commonwealth. Leveraging this shared history, it has remained an active member of the organization since independence in 1960. These strong historic ties lay a sturdy foundation for greater engagement, leading to mutual prosperity and sustainable development in a variety of ways:
a. Economic Collaboration
According to the International Monetary Fund, Nigeria is one of the five fastest growing economies in world, with its total GDP predicted to hit $574 billion by the end of the year. Nigeria's economy is recognized as the largest in sub-Saharan Africa, offering a multitude of opportunities for Commonwealth countries to expand their economic ties. With a growing middle class, a vast consumer market with a rising demand for goods and services, and abundant natural resources, Nigeria presents an ideal platform for investment and trade partnerships. The Commonwealth can help Nigeria to foster sustainable economic growth and diversification in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. This can be enabled through trade missions, business -to-business matchmaking events, and investment forums which promote bilateral trade and investment between Nigeria and the Commonwealth's other fifty-five member states.
b. Knowledge and Cultural Exchange
Nigeria is home to a large pool of talented professionals across a variety of fields. In recent years, there has been a surge in emigration to Canada, United States, United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates, amongst other locations, in part caused by a failure to understand “the importance of empowering home-grown talent and the integral part they play in growing and sustaining the economy”. The Commonwealth can foster collaboration in education, research, and innovation by promoting student and faculty exchanges, joint research projects, and scholarships. By tapping into Nigeria's intellectual capital, the Commonwealth can nurture a knowledge-based economy that delivers benefits to all of its 2.6 billion citizens.
Nigeria's cultural diversity and rich heritage make it an attractive destination for cultural exchange and tourism. However, many cultural heritage sites have been described as endangered due to trafficking, exportation, theft, and vandalism. The Commonwealth can help to deepen people-to-people connections, foster cultural understanding, and promote tourism in Nigeria. Exchange programs, cultural festivals, and joint marketing campaigns can showcase Nigeria's cultural treasures, promote sustainable tourism practices, and generate economic opportunities for local communities. By leveraging Nigeria's cultural assets, the Commonwealth can contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage while boosting tourism revenue and creating jobs.
c. Democracy and Governance
Although significant progress has been made with regards to Nigeria’s democratic and governance institutions, challenges still remain, as reflected in the recent elections. According to Statista, Nigerian democracy still requires further development in terms of the electoral process and in terms of pluralism. The Commonwealth, known for its commitment to democratic values and good governance, can provide valuable support to Nigeria in strengthening its institutions, promoting transparency, and ensuring the rule of law. Through technical assistance, capacity-building programs, and electoral observation missions, the Commonwealth can foster inclusive governance and improve democratic practices.
d. Infrastructure Development
Nigeria faces significant infrastructure gaps, hindering its economic growth and social development. The World Bank's public finance report states that Nigeria's physical infrastructure gap is estimated to reach $3tn in 30 years. The Commonwealth, bolstered by the significant experience of some member states, can support Nigeria in key areas such as transportation, energy and water. In the same vein, there is an opportunity to leverage Nigeria’s significant advancements in the mobile and tech industry. By making the most of expertise, financing mechanisms, and joint ventures, Commonwealth member states can contribute to sustainable infrastructure projects that uplift communities and drive economic progress.
e. Agriculture and Food Security
With its extensive arable land and agricultural potential, Nigeria holds the key to achieving food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The Commonwealth, by harnessing the agricultural expertise of some of its member states, can collaborate with Nigeria to improve agricultural practices, enhance productivity, and promote sustainable farming techniques. By leveraging technology, knowledge sharing, and market access, the Commonwealth can assist Nigeria in transforming its agricultural sector and ensuring food security for its citizens.
f. Healthcare and Public Health
Improving healthcare systems and addressing public health challenges is crucial for Nigeria's sustainable development - according to the World Health Organisation, outcome indicators are still “unacceptably high”, despite some advances. The weakening of the healthcare system is said to have been caused by the “COVID-19 Pandemic, Yellow Fever, brain drain, financial incentives and poor salaries, inadequate allocation of funds, shortage of protective equipment for health workers and obsolete infrastructure and incessant strikes”. The Commonwealth can play a vital role in supporting Nigeria's efforts to strengthen existing healthcare infrastructure, enhance healthcare delivery systems, and combat diseases through collaborative initiatives in areas such as medical research, technology transfer, and local capacity building can significantly improve healthcare outcomes in Nigeria. By harnessing its collective expertise and resources, the Commonwealth can contribute to the development of a robust and inclusive healthcare sector in Nigeria.
Recognizing the immense potential and growth trajectory of Nigeria (projected to be amongst the top 10 most populous countries in the world by 2050 according to Worldometers and United Nations) there is a clear need to strengthen strategic collaborations and partnerships with states who share its values. Nigeria's journey towards progress and prosperity aligns with the core values and objectives of the Commonwealth, presenting an opportunity to forge a deeper relationship that benefits both Nigeria and other member states. By collaborating in areas such as economic development, education, healthcare, governance, and cultural exchange, the Commonwealth can forge strong partnerships with Nigeria, leading to mutual benefits and sustainable growth. The Commonwealth has a unique role to play in supporting Nigeria's journey towards socio-economic prosperity, while Nigeria, in turn, can serve as a catalyst for Commonwealth engagement in sub-Saharan Africa. As Nigeria and the Commonwealth join hands, the possibilities for collective progress are boundless.
Abimbola Okoya is a member of the Advisory Board Member at the Centre for Commonwealth Affairs. In addition, she has recently served as the President of the Nigeria-Britain Association, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to nurturing the bonds of friendship between Nigeria and Britain. With a versatile professional background encompassing Marketing, Communications, and Sustainable Development, Abimbola boasts more than two decades of invaluable experience working with renowned multinational FMCG companies as well as indigenous organizations. Her expertise and skills have made her a respected figure in the field.