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A Decade of Nigeria’s Economic Diplomacy: Issues and Challenges
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During most of the twentieth century, two world wars, the cold war, the rivalry of two super powers, the ideologization of international affairs and military confrontation, made diplomacy a subsidiary instrument of power politics and ideology. The end of the cold war radically changed the international political scene and today we are facing the shift of the ‘civilizational’ paradigm, which affects not only the major units of world polities – the States – but which also brings new actors into the forefront of international relations. The process of globalization, which strengthens the ”oneness” of the world is, at the same time, accompanied by the fragmentation and localization by the growing gap between rich and poor nations. All these transformations bring new challenges for diplomacy on a global level. Thus while there are many facets of globalization, the economic aspects of it have been critical in the quest for the achievement of national development, and also the preservation of individual nation’s sovereignty.
The challenge facing nations in the emergent era of globalization is how best to integrate into the World System, in such a manner that would not only preserve their sovereignty but also
enhance their development. Consequently, the major political factor influencing diplomacy is the relative decline of the role of the national governments. Today governments are facing stern competition from other actors. Private sector, religious groups, immigrants, media and other entities of the civil society are demanding from the government that their interests be taken into consideration and that they have a say in making and implementing foreign policy.
Economic diplomacy is gradually taking over the traditional politics-oriented diplomacy. With the phenomenal growth of transnational economic interactions, the world market has expanded dramatically, dramatically increased trade levels, ever-tightening economic interdependence between countries and the growing impact of international economics on domestic economics and so also has the number of economic actors. Governments everywhere are primarily concerned with maintaining the competitiveness of their economies. Accordingly, private economic decisions are now largely controlling political choices of the governments.
Nigeria, as an actor in the international arena, has interests that extend beyond its borders and typically, it must possess the means to pursue and protect them. This paper focuses on major economic factors that influenced the course of the Obasanjo administration’s foreign policy since 1999 and investigates the extent to which the administration forged international economic policies that protected and expanded Nigeria’s position in the international community.
Nigeria since independence has played a constructive role on the international stage befitting her status as the largest black nation in the world. Being a prominent member of the international community, Nigeria has continued to play an active role in global governance in different international organizations and bodies and remains a major military and economic force in the West African sub- region. With its large reserves of human and natural resources, Nigeria has the potential to build a prosperous economy, reduce poverty significantly, and provide the health, education, and infrastructure services its population needs.
However, by the early 1980s with the downturn in the country’s economy, Nigeria began to experience problems in the international arena. The decline in oil revenue, caused by the collapse of oil prices, brought about a major socio-economic crisis in Nigeria that impacted negatively on her external image. Not only did the country default in the servicing of her external debts, but the resulting debt arrears constituted a problem in the country’s bilateral and multilateral relationships. This contributed significantly to Nigeria’s loss of respect in the international financial community and, worse, hampered foreign investment. Also, as the economy worsened, the funding of social and economic infrastructure suffered a decline whilst unemployment increased and the quality of life declined.
Successive leaders were unable to arrest the crisis in the economy and establish a basis for sustainable growth, and they failed also to grapple with the problem of creating a basis for democracy and a stable polity. Nigeria remained an under-developed country with very weak physical infrastructure and an outrageously low human development index. Nigeria is currently among the poorest and least developed countries in the world. This situation further deteriorated the economy which was dependent, disarticulated and peripherally integrated into the world economy.
The concept of economic diplomacy was first introduced into the nation’s foreign policy by the Ibrahim Babangida administration. Although the Babangida regime was given a lethal blow to Nigeria’s image abroad and its foreign policy in particular, for the first time, Nigeria tied her economic and political interests to the country’s foreign policy. Economic diplomacy in the 1990’s involved negotiating trade concessions, attracting foreign investors, and rescheduling debt repayment to Western creditors. The aim was to ‚make foreign policy serve the country’s goal of economic development‛ The effect of this was that the regime was able to ‚<accomplish the much needed but near impossible debt-rescheduling, <revitalize a prostrate economy,
<achieved a higher visibility for Nigeria in international organizations, and succeeded in projecting the nation’s image as the primus inter pares on the continent of Africa‛ (Fawole 2003). In a globalized world where growing interdependence underlines economic issues, economic diplomacy emerged as the most efficient instrument of foreign policy.
The Babangida administration further sought to address Nigeria’s galaxies of economic challenges by adopting several economic policies like Structural Adjustment Programme.
However, the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme as one of the means actualizing the goals of its economic brought untold economic hardships, political unrest in the country. The lack of growth in the domestic economy evidently had a profound effect on all sectors of national life.
The Obasanjo administration also employed the instrument of economic diplomacy, with attendant political and economic reforms. Thus, the present democratic administration has also employed the instrument of economic diplomacy, with attendant political and economic reforms.