The out­look of the United States on Nige­ria’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment

This be­ing the re­marks of Am­bas­sador Stu­art Syming­ton, United States Am­bas­sador to Nige­ria, who was rep­re­sented by Stephen M. Haykin, USAID Mis­sion Di­rec­tor, at the 10th An­niver­sary Col­lo­quium of Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria mag­a­zine, which held on Septem­ber 11, 201

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents -

Salu­ta­tions: Dis­tin­guished Guests

I would like to be­gin by thank­ing Jide Ak­in­tunde and the spon­sors of this fo­rum on such an im­por­tant topic.

In my re­marks, I will ex­plain why we are bullish on Nige­ria’s Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment. I will dis­cuss some of the salient chal­lenges. I will share high­lights of the US re­sponse through our ad­vo­cacy and ac­tions. Fi­nally, I will sug­gest that there is a “spe­cial sauce” that will en­rich Nige­ria’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment menu.

Bullish on Nige­ria

There are many rea­sons for the United States to be bullish on Nige­ria.

The peo­ple of Nige­ria are dy­namic and di­verse; there is a strong en­trepreneurial streak and there is an abun­dance of highly ta­lented pro­fes­sion­als with a vast ar­ray of skills.

There is con­sid­er­able, un­tapped eco­nomic po­ten­tial. Nige­ria can cer­tainly sup­ple­ment its nat­u­ral re­source-based econ­omy with in­creases in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and agro-pro­cess­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing for a large in­ter­nal and re­gional mar­ket, and ser­vice pro­vi­sion. For in­stance, one of our com­mer­cial con­tacts has cre­ated hun­dreds of jobs in call cen­ters serv­ing clients around the world.

Nige­ria is one of the world’s largest democ­ra­cies and my sense is that most Nige­ri­ans want that democ­racy to deepen and en­dure; it may not al­ways ap­pear ob­vi­ous, but Nige­ria’s in­sti­tu­tions are im­por­tant ar­biters of the com­plex de­mands of a di­verse pop­u­la­tion.

Nige­ria is also a val­ued part­ner of the United States. In fact, Nige­ria en­joys a trade sur­plus with the United States: Nige­ria’s ex­ports to the US to­taled $6 bil­lion in 2017, while the US ex­ported $2.2 bil­lion in goods to Nige­ria. We also have strong ties in the ar­eas of in­vest­ment, se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion and cul­tural ex­change.


Even as we are op­ti­mistic, we are keenly aware of the chal­lenges that Nige­ria faces.

Although Nige­ria is a mid­dle-in­come coun­try, there is great in­come in­equal­ity and there are deep pock­ets of poverty. We must also be con­cerned where there is marginal­iza­tion of women or other groups due to their eth­nic­ity, be­liefs or means of liveli­hood. Nige­ria has a youth­ful pop­u­la­tion, but Nige­rian youth do not all en­ter adult­hood with the same means and op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Nige­ria faces huge de­mo­graphic chal­lenges. Pop­u­la­tion will likely in­crease to nearly 450 mil­lion by 2050. Cou­pled with cli­mate change, this will put pro­found pres­sure on Nige­ria’s re­sources, no­tably wa­ter and arable land. Pop­u­la­tion growth will also tend to out­strip the ca­pac­ity of the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture and, al­ready, it means that nearly one mil­lion youth are en­ter­ing the job mar­ket each quar­ter. Pop­u­la­tion growth is thus the Achilles heel of ef­forts to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

Poverty and in­equal­ity are closely as­so­ci­ated with poor health, ed­u­ca­tion and nu­tri­tion sta­tus. You are well aware of the sever­ity and vari­abil­ity of the health and ed­u­ca­tion sta­tis­tics. Were you aware that 36 per­cent of Nige­ria’s chil­dren un­der five are stunted, with the pro­found im­pacts this will have on their health, ed­u­ca­tion and earn­ing prospects over the course of their lives?

One prox­i­mate cause of poor health, ed­u­ca­tion and nu­tri­tion sta­tus is low pub­lic ex­pen­di­tures. This, in turn, is re­lated to very low pub­lic rev­enues, due in part to low tax rates and weak sys­tems for tax col­lec­tion. Low so­cial spend­ing is also the re­sult of trans­fers from Gov­ern­ment to the petroleum and power sec­tors be­cause fuel and elec­tric­ity tar­iffs are be­low costre­cov­ery lev­els. Fis­cal, trade and other macroe­co­nomic poli­cies tend to act as brakes on pri­vate sec­tor ini­tia­tive and eco­nomic growth.

Weak gov­er­nance, whether due to low ex­pen­di­tures, in­ad­e­quate ca­pac­ity or lack of checks and bal­ances, slows eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. Where se­cu­rity ser­vices and rule of law are weaker, Nige­ri­ans may have less con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment.

Con­flict is an­other great chal­lenge. I see the var­i­ous con­flicts that arise in dif­fer­ent parts of Nige­ria, whether large or small, as man­i­fes­ta­tions of the eco­nomic, gov­er­nance and so­cial chal­lenges that I have just out­lined. This is why sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment for all Nige­ri­ans is im­por­tant to each and ev­ery Nige­rian.

US-Nige­ria Bi­lat­eral Co­op­er­a­tion

Nige­ria’s Eco­nomic Re­cov­ery and Growth Plan (ERGP) forms a solid foun­da­tion for US-Nige­ria bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion. Our sup­port for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment comes through our diplo­matic and tech­ni­cal di­a­logue and through our for­eign as­sis­tance.

We seek to pro­gramme our for­eign as­sis­tance to be cat­alytic. We are com­mit­ted to the prin­ci­ple that the na­ture of our bi­lat­eral as­sis­tance will evolve over time. As the USAID Ad­min­is­tra­tor, Mark Green, has stated, “I be­lieve the pur­pose of for­eign as­sis­tance should be end­ing its need to ex­ist… we could help our part­ners by pri­or­i­tiz­ing pro­grams that show mea­sur­able im­pact, in­cen­tivize re­form, di­ver­sify our part­ner base, fos­ter lo­cal ca­pac­ity-build­ing, and mo­bi­lize their own do­mes­tic re­sources.”

One pil­lar of our bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion is to strengthen the ca­pac­i­ties of gov­ern­ment and civic ac­tors and build greater trust in gov­er­nance. We sup­port ef­forts to im­prove the trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, for in­stance, by help­ing to strengthen pub­lic fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and sup­port for fed­eral and state par­tic­i­pa­tion in the global Open Gov­er­nance Part­ner­ship. We ac­tively sup­port peace­ful, in­clu­sive and trans­par­ent elec­tions. We also work with a num­ber of civil so­ci­ety and faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­mote their roles in pol­icy ad­vo­cacy, pro­mot­ing gov­ern­ment trans­parency and mit­i­gat­ing con­flict. We have many ex­am­ples of how civil so­ci­ety col­lab­o­ra­tion with gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties has en­hanced ser­vice de­liv­ery or deesca­lated con­flict.

A de­ci­sive fac­tor in Nige­ria’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment path, the “se­cret sauce,” I sub­mit, will be the ded­i­ca­tion of its cit­i­zens to a com­mon and in­clu­sive agenda.

We ac­tively sup­port ef­forts to in­crease eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and job creation, es­pe­cially for the large num­bers of youth en­ter­ing the work­force. We ac­knowl­edge re­cent progress made and con­tinue to ad­vo­cate and pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for im­prove­ments in eco­nomic poli­cies and the busi­ness en­abling en­vi­ron­ment. We rec­og­nize the pow­er­ful role that the pri­vate sec­tor must play in Nige­ria’s de­vel­op­ment, draw­ing upon its reser­voir of en­trepreneur­ship and tal­ent. A ma­jor com­po­nent of our co­op­er­a­tion, known as Feed-the-Fu­ture, pro­motes growth in agri­cul­ture and agribusi­ness, ar­eas in which we be­lieve quick gains are pos­si­ble. Rec­og­niz­ing that there are im­por­tant in­fras­truc­tural con­straints, we pro­vide as­sis­tance to im­prove pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of elec­tric­ity, through our Power Africa ini­tia­tive.

A third and crit­i­cally im­por­tant pil­lar of our co­op­er­a­tion is in­vest­ing in peo­ple:

• In ed­u­ca­tion, we fo­cus on ac­cess to and qual­ity of pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, no­tably early read­ing, in states with some of the low­est en­roll­ment and lit­er­acy rates.

• Health is one of the largest parts of our as­sis­tance port­fo­lio. It fo­cuses on in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity for pri­mary health­care, ma­ter­nal and child­care, im­mu­niza­tions and fam­ily plan­ning. It also fo­cuses upon HIV/AIDS, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, malaria and po­lio.

• Wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene rep­re­sent an ad­di­tional el­e­ment, where our em­pha­sis is on sus­tain­abil­ity of ac­cess to clean wa­ter.

The US-Nige­ria bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship is much deeper that I can cap­ture in a few short min­utes here. It in­cludes ex­change pro­grammes, joint re­search and higher ed­u­ca­tion re­la­tion­ships. For those who are in­ter­ested in learn­ing more, I re­fer you to our USAID out­reach and Em­bassy pub­lic af­fairs staff, as well as our web and so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

Spe­cial Sauce

Nige­ria is unique in the way it han­dles the com­pet­ing claims of its di­verse pop­u­la­tion. Some of the recipe for do­ing this is baked into the Con­sti­tu­tion, which may ex­plain why there are peren­nial calls for con­sti­tu­tional re­form. Some­times it seems that this com­pe­ti­tion takes Nige­ria al­most to the break­ing point.

Where the ac­tions of in­di­vid­ual cit­i­zens, act­ing in their own self-in­ter­ests, are con­trary to the com­mon good of all cit­i­zens, we have a phe­nom­e­non known as the “tragedy of the com­mons,” an ex­pres­sion orig­i­nat­ing in over­graz­ing of live­stock in nine­teenth cen­tury Eng­land. The al­ter­na­tive is mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion, where in­di­vid­u­als place a pre­mium on shared ob­jec­tives. For in­stance, last year I vis­ited a small com­mu­nity in Sokoto that had pulled to­gether to build a small struc­ture for the sole pur­pose of host­ing non-for­mal ed­u­ca­tion for youth, many of them young women and girls. In Nige­ria, we see such ex­am­ples of mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion, ev­ery day.

A de­ci­sive fac­tor in Nige­ria’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment path, the “se­cret sauce,” I sub­mit, will be the ded­i­ca­tion of its cit­i­zens to a com­mon and in­clu­sive agenda. This re­quires lead­er­ship by gov­ern­ment and it also re­quires lead­er­ship in civil so­ci­ety and the en­gage­ment of Nige­rian cit­i­zens. This com­ing to­gether will be en­hanced through ac­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pub­lic de­bate.

This con­cept, the no­tion that Nige­ria is ul­ti­mately one uni­fied na­tion, is so cen­tral that it is em­bod­ied in Nige­ria’s na­tional an­them. You know it bet­ter than I do (help me out here): “One na­tion bound in free­dom, peace and unity…”

Thank you and may all Nige­ri­ans pull to­gether to en­sure sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment for all of the chil­dren of Nige­ria.

Stephen Haykin, Mis­sion Di­rec­tor, Nige­ria, USAID (rep­re­sen­ta­tive of US Am­bas­sador to Nige­ria, Stu­art Syming­ton)

A cross-sec­tion of par­tic­i­pants at the Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria mag­a­zine’s 10th an­niver­sary col­lo­quium

A cross-sec­tion of par­tic­i­pants at the Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria mag­a­zine’s 10th an­niver­sary col­lo­quium

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