Nnamdi Obasi


It is my pleasure and privilege to be invited to participate in this important seminar which seeks to reflect upon what was, unarguably, a most significant period of our national evolution and, if I may say, one of the most eventful but also controversial administration in the history of this country . I am particularly grateful for the opportunity given me to make a formal presentation at this seminar. I hope that my modest presentation will contribute, at least in some little way, towards a clearer understanding and appreciation of the import of that unique era in our experience of nation building.

My invitation to this forum indicated that the audience would comprise leading scholars, some former senior officials of government, respected journalists and other highly informed citizens. This calibre of participants presents, for me, both a simple and a daunting task. Simple because, as a highly knowledgeable audience, you are already quite familiar with most of the issues I intend to touch upon. On the other hand, the task is also daunting because I realize that I may actually be addressing an audience so highly informed on the subject, that I run the risk of boring you with issues and perspectives which you may already have thoroughly chewed over, digested or thrown overboard in the academic and media worlds. In fact, more dangerously, I run the risk of penetrating questions that may arise after this presentation. It is my hope, however, that either way, this presentation, dealing with events that took place about ten years ago, will elicit some more dispassionate and objective comments than may have been the case a few years ago. More importantly, I hope that the cross fertilization of ideas engendered by the entirety of this seminar, will prove beneficial to us all in further interpreting that important era of our national life and in forging ahead into the 21 st century.

In dealing with the subject at this forum, my presentation will be made along the following lines;

  1. Overview of Nigeria’s foreign policy from 1960 to 1985;
  2. Early Signposts of the Babangida administration’s foreign policy;
  3. Philosophical, historical and domestic backgrounds of Economic Diplomacy;
  4. The Goals of Nigeria’s Economic Diplomacy under Babangida administration;
  5. Conduct of Economic Diplomacy: Tools, Assets and Strategies.
  6. Gains and Achievements of Economic Diplomacy;
  7. Constraints and criticisms of Economic Diplomacy:
  8. Nigeria’s Economic Diplomacy in the immediate post-Babangida era; and
  9. The enduring imperative of Economic Diplomacy in Nigeria’s Foreign Policy in the 21st

Hope that within the limits of this framework, we may be able to achieve a fair treatment of the subject.

Overview of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy from 1960 to 1985

The foreign policy of any nation constitutes an integral part of her overall strategy for survival in a competitive global system. The importance of this dimension of a nation’s grand strategy is aptly captured by Kurt London, when he asserts that foreign policy “may be called the father of all things in international relations. Indeed, the fate of the world depends upon wise foreign policy.”‘ This perception is corroborated by William Wallace who identifies foreign policy as that critical “area of politics which bridges the all-important boundary between the nation state and its international environment. Accordingly, as Olusanya and Akindele correctly assert; the over-riding objective of any country’s foreign policy is to promote and protect that “country’s national interests in its interaction with the outside world and relationships with specific countries in the international systems”.

Over the years between the attainment of independence in 1960 and the advent of the Babangida regime in 1985, there had emerged some broad consensus that Nigeria’s national interests consist of the following:

  1. the defence of the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity;
  2. the restoration of human dignity to black men and women all over the world, particularly the eradication of colonialism and white minority rule from the face of Africa;
  3. the creation of the relevant political and economic conditions in Africa and the rest of the world which will not only facilitate the preservation of the territorial integrity and security of all African countries but also foster national self-reliance in African countries;
  4. the promotion and improvement of the economic well being of Nigerian citizens; and
  5. the promotion of world peace and justice.’

While there was a national consensus in support of these broad objectives, each of the governments at the national level over that 25 year period, gave its own interpretation of these objectives, according to its own level of emphasis to each of them. The First Republic government of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, for instance, was overtly pro- Western and thus unduly cautious in its attitude to the decolonisation struggle. The Aguiyi Ironsi regime did not last long enough to demonstrate any particular foreign policy priorities. The Yakubu Gowon era “marked the beginning of Nigeria’s central role in African affairs”, while the Mohammed/Obasanjo regime “demonstrated more commitment to and took more radical and militant initiatives in pursuing the principles and objectives of, the total eradication of colonialism and racism from Africa.

The Shehu Shagari administration, similarly, “stressed the importance of Africa in Nigeria’s foreign policy as well as the enhancement of international cooperation for the consolidation of world peace, and emphasized the importance of the elimination of racial discrimination in the world system. Under Shagari’s regime, however, Nigeria’s domestic economic fortunes sharply deteriorated, constraining the government’s freedom to maneuver and forcing her to mellow, considerably, the militant pan-African emphasis of the previous Murtala/Obasanjo regime. The Muhammadu Buhari administration, which replaced the Shagari government after the coup of 31 December, 1983, inherited a weak and further deteriorating economy and was therefore pressed by this unhealthy economic situation to adopt a posture variously described as more shrewd, cautious or more timid, in its consideration of foreign policy options. Such was the prevailing situation when General lbrahirm Babangida assumed power in August 1985.

Early Outlines of Babangida Administrative Foreign Policy

When General Babangida assumed the Presidency in 1985, he indicated that some major changes in the emphasis and conduct of foreign policy were to be expected. In his maiden broadcast to the nation, Babangida had pointedly criticized Buhari’s foreign policy as unimaginative and lacking in initiative. As he puts it:

“Nigeria’s foreign policy in the last 20 months has been characterized by inconsistencies and incoherence. It has lacked the clarity to make us know where we stood on matters of international concern to enable other countries relate to us with seriousness. Our role as Africa’s spokesman has diminished because we have been unable to maintain the respect of African countries. The ousted military government conducted our external relations by a policy of retaliatory action. Nigeria became a country that reacted to given situations rather than taking the initiative as it should, as it had always been done.”

In spite of this damning indictment of its predecessor, the Babangida regime, at that inception, did not seem to suggest any revolutionary departure from the past. In fact, also in that maiden broadcast, Babangida restated that, “Africa’s problems, and their solutions, should constitute the premise of our foreign policy. The revitalization of the Organisation of African Unity and the Lagos Plan of Action for self-sufficiency and constructive cooperation in Africa shall be our primary pursuit. The Economic Community of West African States must be revamped with a view to achieving the objectives of regional integration.”

These areas of priority, with the exception of the renewed emphasis on ECOWAS, did not initially seem to suggest that a sustained engagement with economic diplomacy would become a major pre-occupation of the administration. The earliest indication that economic cooperation with other countries may feature prominently in the administration’s foreign policy was the establishment in September 1987, of the Technical Aid Corps Scheme (TACS), under the then Ministry of External Affairs. The programme was designed as a scheme through which Nigeria could extend technical assistance to other African and Caribbean countries in a regular, organised and systematic form, in contrast to the ad hoc and often uncoordinated arrangements of the past.

The programme, formally launched by President Babangida on November 7, 1987, saw the first set of 102 young Nigerian experts departing from Lagos to 12 other countries in January 1988. By the end of the 1992/94 service period, during which the Babangida administration came to an end, a total of 101 Nigerians had served in the West African sub-region; 101 in East and Central Africa, 256 in Southern Africa, 121 in the Caribbean, 31 in the Pacific and 21 in South America. As it settled down into office, however, the fact became increasingly clear that the immediate major problems which the government had to tackle were those of improving Nigeria’s depressed economy and liquidating the huge national foreign and domestic debts.

To this end, the administration re-directed its foreign policy with greater emphasis on economic issues. The appointment of Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd) as Foreign Affairs Minister in 1988, led to the formal adoption of Economic diplomacy as a foreign policy strategy for attracting both foreign investment and other assistance required for achieving the objectives of the Structural Adjustment Programme.

Philosophical, Historical and Economic Backgrounds of Economic Diplomacy.

The policy of economic administration, however, was not, exactly a novelty; it indeed had its roots in antiquity. Philosophically, the goal of all national policies has usually been to enhance the material wellbeing of citizens. With specific regard to foreign policy, the goal of all diplomatic pursuits has usually been to satisfy or promote the national interest, a crucial component of which is the promotion of economic diplomacy adopted by the Babangida regime for material development.

In practice, the origins of economic diplomacy are indeed traceable to very ancient times. The ancient Greeks, for instance, are known to have formed alliances of over 200 cities and islands for the purpose of facilitating trade and commerce. According to Chikendu,”Athens was said to have wielded considerable influence at this period (478 BC) because of her seasoned economic diplomacy and her aggressive commercial practices.” Coming nearer home to African history, there is abundant evidence of the fact that the pre-occupational empires, kingdoms and city-states through their interactions among themselves and with the outside world, accorded due priority to economic and commercial relations through a complex network of diplomatic contacts.

In the 19th century, the pursuit of economic interests by the European powers led these powers to resort to ‘gun-boat’ diplomacy, which paved the way for the conquest and colonisation of Africa and other parts of the developing world. Indeed, the partitioning of Africa at the Berlin conference of 1884-1885, marked the decisive shift of European diplomacy from its erstwhile pre-occupation with power politics on the European continent to the tussle for raw materials, trade routes and markets overseas. During the 20th century, the emphasis on economic objectives in external relations became even more significant. More than ever before, the quest for the maintenance of power became increasingly understood in terms of economic wellbeing, and it became the driving force behind state politics and activities in the global setting. In the course of time, the use of economic pressure in the form of sanctions, withdrawal of aid, grants and other forms of technical assistance became popular.

Thus, both in a philosophical and a historic sense, economic diplomacy had always been a major instrument for the pursuit of strategic goals and the advancement of national interests in the international system. And it was in this context that the Babangida administration’s adoption of economic diplomacy has been described not as a new experiment with a novel concept, but indeed “a return to classical diplomacy.”

Yet the policy of economic diplomacy was also firmly dictated by the realities of the Nigerian political economy at that particular point in time. In the years preceding the Babangida administration, the prevailing domestic environment had been characterized by very unfavourable economic indicators. The economic downturn experienced in the country which built up from the early 1980s, had reached a dangerous proportion, necessitating the adoption of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in 1986. Economic diplomacy was therefore the foreign policy support to the administration’s goals of economic revival and sustainable development. The administration sought, through adoption of this policy, to integrate economic objectives into foreign policy perspectives, with a view to facilitating the realization of the goals and objectives of the Structural Adjustment Programme. In effect, the adoption of economic diplomacy meant that the nation’s foreign policy instruments were being enlisted and mobilized to advance the course of supporting national economic recovery, especially by attracting investment into the country and promoting Nigeria’s non-oil exports in the international market.

The Goals of Economic Diplomacy

The specific goals of the Babangida administration’s economic diplomacy were therefore as follows:

  1. Elevation of national economic interests in foreign policy priorities;
  2. Articulation and adoption of strategies that would promote the implementation of domestic economic objectives;
  3. increased co-ordination with the relevant home ministries as well as collaboration with the organized sector (OPS) in realization of the goals of economic diplomacy;
  4. Re-organisation of the foreign service to facilitate the achievement of national economic objectives; and
  5. Promotion, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of joint Economic Commissions between Nigeria and other countries.

The Conduct of Economic Diplomacy 1988 -1992: Tools, Assets and Strategies

In pursuit of the above goals, the administration sought to expand the scope and content of economic cooperation with foreign countries, primarily through the instrument of joint commissions, bilateral agreements and other forms of the introduction of economic diplomacy. Joint commissions assumed a new prominence as an instrument for management of Nigeria’s bilateral economic relations. Such commissions focused on promoting trade relations as well as her scientific and technical cooperation with the instrument of joint technical cooperation, with Nigeria and other countries in such diverse areas as agriculture, mining industry, energy, oil and gas, health, science and technology, culture etc. A novel feature of these commissions, however, was that in line with the new foreign policy orientation, the organized private sector was now involved as partners in the preparatory stages of the joint sessions and also in the implementation of bilateral agreements. This involvement of those who were to be the end beneficiaries of bilateral agreements gave great impetus to the establishment of more, bilateral chambers and trade committees in the country.

Besides the active participation of the organized private sector in the joint commissions and bilateral talk, another significant development was the upsurge in the number and frequency of joint commission sessions. Between 1989 and the first half of 1992, the number of sessions held was a marked improvement over the number for previous fears. For instance, for the nineteen-year period from 1970 to 1988, a total of 47 joint sessions and bilateral talks were held. But, following the inception of economic diplomacy, the number of such sessions increased significantly. In the period of three and a half years from 1989 to the first half of 1992, a total of 29 joint sessions/bilateral talks were held with various countries.

Another significant development was the emphasis placed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the conclusion of Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPA), in the context of Nigeria’s bilateral cooperation with other countries, especially the developed countries of Europe and North America. This emphasis was informed by the desire to properly situate the issue of investment protection in the bilateral context and the need to provide necessary guarantees for foreign investment in the country as a means of attracting additional foreign capital.

Apart from the vigorous pursuit of bilateral economic relations, the administration’s economic diplomacy also took cognizance of the place of multilateral economic cooperation and the roles which multilateral economic instruments could play in furthering Nigeria’s economic goals. Thus, considerable emphasis was placed on advancing the frontiers of economic cooperation between Nigeria and member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Organisation of African Unity, the South South Commission and the Group of 15.

The Gains of Economic Diplomacy

As was noted earlier, diplomacy is the art of promoting a nation’s interests in its intercourse with other nations. The gains of this process sometimes take time to mature and must therefore be evaluated in a continuum of short and long term perspectives. Economic diplomacy, particularly because of the complex domestic environment, was bound to take time to bear fruits. Even so, for the five or so years during which this policy was pursued by the administration, there were some clearly discernable gains and achievements.

The first and perhaps the most obvious benefit of the policy, was the creation of a new awareness, consciousness and interest by government in the important role which the enlisted private sector could play in the nation’s export promotion drive. As a consequence of that policy, the nation’s private enterprises, more than ever before, began to participate in government sponsored trade missions, joint commission meetings and investment forums. The benefits of new development were not easily quantifiable, as they could not be converted to immediate cash value and number analysis. Yet there was no doubt that a sustained pursuit of this policy could have had significant multiplier effects on the nation’s economic growth and development in the long run.

A second noticeable gain of economic diplomacy was the restoration of Nigeria’s credit worthiness with her creditors. For it was one thing to adopt a fundamental policy programme such as the Structural Adjustment Programme, and quite another to persuade the international community into accepting that the country was indeed committed to that policy. Largely as a result of the promotion of the Structural Adjustment Programme in the administration’s economic diplomacy drive, the international community to see Nigeria as a country that was truly committed to policies of economic liberalizatlion trade promotion and export driven growth, and thus a responsible participant in debt negotiation forums. Consequently, as the policy led to a renewal of confidence in the Nigerian economy, it not only contributed to halting divestment by foreign investors but also encouraged the inflow of fresh credits and grants in aid from several external donors, in support of the Structural Adjustment Programme.

Bola Akintehinwa, for instance has shown that the economic diplomacy accounted in part, for the increase in the amount of grant from Japan to Nigeria in the late 1980s. In his words;

“Japanese aid grant was generally low until 1985… Total aid, including technical cooperation grant, was not up to three million dollars for any year in the period 1980 through 1986, same in 1981 when Nigeria was given $4.79 million. The total value of Japanese grant in the period 1980- 1986 was $16.91 million, while in 1987 and 1988, Nigeria received $13.09 million and $32.84million respectively. The sharp increase in grant, from a low level of $2.75 million in 1986 to the 1987 and 1988 figures seems to be due, at least in part, to Nigeria’s economic diplomacy”

In terms of foreign investment inflows, it is significant that while the aggregate stood at only N6million in 1985, the figure increased by about 36.6 percent to N9.313 million in 1987. By 1987, it further increased by 7 percent, registering an aggregate of N9.993 million.

In 1989, following the awareness of Nigeria’s improved investment climate which economic diplomacy created abroad, and particularly that an Industrial Development Cooperation Council (IDCC), had been established as a one-step agency for the registration of foreign businesses in Nigeria, an unprecedented number of foreign investors began to show interest in Nigeria. Infact, even the decline recorded in 1990 may not have been due to any failure of economic diplomacy, but a consequence of the more liberal trade regulations in that year’s budget which led to a boom in non-oil exports to other ECOWAS and Central African markets, through channels that were unofficial and therefore undocumented. Moreover, during the same period, as a consequence of government legislation which further encouraged the processing of primary commodities before export, a greater volume of non-oil commodity products which used to be exported in their raw state were then being increasingly processed domestically. (See Table 1 in Appendix 1).

The success of economic diplomacy in the rejuvenation of the nation’s non-oil export sector may even be more clearly highlighted by analyzing the trend of earnings in quinquennial segments over the 25 year period from 1965 to 1990. (see table). The contribution of the non-oil sector to the nation’s aggregate export earnings which averaged 66.1 per cent from 1966 to 1970, fell to 15.3 per cent, between 1971 and 1975, and further slumped to 7 percent between 1976 and 1980. From 1981 to 1985, the five year period immediately preceding the economy. In response to this new surge of interest the administration, by May 1991 , had granted over 260 approvals for joint ventures involving foreign participation, while 16 approvals had been granted to foreign which owned 100 per cent equity share.

Moreover, 1,209 expatriate quota positions, 36 pioneer status certificates, 96 approved status in principle and three technical management fee agreements had also been recorded. As new direct private investment began to flow into the number of promotional agencies, such as the Commonwealth Development Authority (CDA) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which had earlier stopped operations in the country also returned. And, although the aggregate value of new investments was still modest as at the end of 1992, it was easily perceivable that a sustainable pursuit of both Structural Adjustment and Economic diplomacy, would have yielded substantial increase in foreign capital inflow to the Nigerian economy in the long term by the mid-1990s and beyond.

A third major achievement of economic diplomacy was that it contributed to awakening the export consciousness of Nigerians and the export trade potentials of the country, thus positioning her for what could have been a more active role in the international market. Following the push of the policy, Nigeria’s trade relations with the outside world showed some remarkable improvement in the area of non-oil commodity exports which grew from N13 billion in 1987 to N2.757 billion in 1988 and further to N2.954 billion in 1989. (see table 1 in Appendix 1). Although the proceeds of N2.8 billion recorded in 1990 fell slightly below the 1989 figure, it picked up to about N4.07 billion in 1991 representing an increase.

Before the Babangida administration the contribution of this sector fell to an all-time low of 3.3 percent. But significantly, between 1986 and 1990, the contribution of this sector which have been declining since the 1971 – 1975 period, was reversed and rose to 6.6 percent. Of course, this was still a very low performance, in view of the fact that oil exports still accounted for 93.4 per cent of the nation’s export earnings. What is significant however, is that the 6.6 per cent contribution recorded for 1986 – 1990, indeed amounted to a 100 percent improvement over the 3.3 per cent share recorded for the immediate past five year period. (See Table 2 in the Appendix 1)         `

It must of course be conceded that these improvements in non-oil export trade were partly or even largely an autonomous market response to changes in the exchange value of the Naira against the world’s major currencies. But there can also be no doubt that the vigorous trade promotion drives that were a major economic diplomacy, contributed significantly in encouraging Nigerian exporters to explore the vast possibilities of the international market.

Constraints and Criticism of Babangida Economic Diplomacy

Inspite of the gains and achievements of the Babangjda administration’s economic diplomacy as highlighted above, the fact must also be conceded that the administration, in pursuing that policy, had to contend with several problems and obstacles as well as well-meaning criticism from certain sections of the populace.

A first constraint or obstacle to the policy was the problem posed by the informal sector of Nigeria’s foreign trade. Particularly detrimental to the better formalisation and stronger consolidation of economic ties between Nigeria and other countries of West and Central Africa was the army of smugglers and illegal foreign exchange dealers, whose activities defied documentation and accountability.

A second obstacle to achieving the goals of economic diplomacy was that in trying to penetrate the world market, Nigerian exporters faced stiff competition from other countries whose mode of production enjoyed the use of much more modern technology and better economies of scale. This was particularly the case with markets in the West African sub-region, where on the strength of traditional, historical and linguistic considerations, French suppliers enjoy more deeply entrenched advantages. To this obstacle, may be added the remarkably more aggressive drive of the export driven newly industrialised countries of South East Asia, which were also struggling to make inroads into the same markets.

Thirdly, beyond the West African sub-region, particularly in Europe and North America, the problems of competition mentioned above were further aggravated by numerous tariff and non-tariff measures. As new entrants or potential entrants into these markets, many Nigerian business operators were sometimes ignorant about the requirements, the guidelines for entry and the terms for steady participation in the American and European Community markets.

Finally, with respect to foreign investment, the Foreign Ministry’s drive, intensive as it was, was continually undercut by several factors beyond the control of diplomats. For instance, inadequacy of local infrastructure, especially in the areas of transport, communication and power supply, continuously diminished the attractions of the Nigerian environment. Furthermore, the emergence of advance fee syndicates (now notoriously called 419), damaged the credibility of virtually all Nigerian business operators seeking to bring in partners from the outside world.

The Immediate Post – Babangida

Inspite of these obstacles to realizing the goals of the Babangida administration’s economic diplomacy, there was optimism in the early 1990s, that if this policy thrust and its strategies were sustained, the nation stood to gain enormously in the not too distant future. That optimism, however, was gravely undermined by the chain of events that followed the annulment of the presidential elections of June 12, 1993.

Following that annulment, relations between Nigeria and some important sections of the international community deteriorated, over what was then interpreted as a scheme by the Nigerian military to retain its hold on power, after 12 consecutive years on the saddle. After it became clear that the General Sani Abacha administration had no intention of holding elections in 1994, international hostility to the idea of continued military dictatorship in Nigeria became particularly intense, the high point of which came after the hanging of the ‘Ogoni Nine’ in November 1995, an action executed in utter defiance of international opinion. Some governments placed sanctions on Nigerian government agents and military officers, while military training arrangements were severed.

The combative response to these developments, by Nigeria’s foreign policy under the helmsman ship of Chief Tom Ikimi, gave the impression, rightly or wrongly, that Nigeria did not really care what the international community thought of her, was not really in need of friends and partners in the international system and was not really keen on promoting trade, attracting investment or improving technical cooperation with other parts of the world. Continuous assertion of sovereignty and vigorous, if not rude, rebuffs of those countries which were seen as interfering in the internal affairs of Nigeria, became the paramount pre-occupations of the nation’s foreign policy under the Abacha administration.

As economic diplomacy gave way to what has been described, rightly or wrongly, as ‘bolekaja diplomacy,’ all the elaborate foundations for better economic relations with other countries, so painstakingly laid by the Babangida administration during the Nwachukwu years, were abandoned to crumble and decay. In a sense, therefore, the administration’s economic diplomacy was also a major casualty of June 12, 1993 debacle. Seven years after Babangida’s exit from office, the question that must now be answered however, is whether economic diplomacy still has any relevance to the nation’s foreign policy?

Overview and Legacy Of Babangida’s Foreign Policy

The thrust of this paper has been that a major element of General Babangida administration’s foreign policy was the prominence it accorded to economic considerations, or what otherwise came to be known as its economic diplomacy. It has been established that this policy essentially sought to underscore the centrality of economics to Nigeria’s foreign relations and to shift the focus of the nation’s bilateral and multilateral economic relations from loans and aid, to enhanced trade, investment inflow and technical cooperation as the new priorities of foreign policy.

In the final analysis, the questions that need to be asked and answered are as follows: What legacies did the Babangida administration leave behind in the area of foreign policy. What is history’s verdict on the foreign policy legacies of the Babangida administration? What illumination, if any, do this legacy and verdict afford us as we contemplate the challenges of the 21st century?

Of the Technical Aid Corps Scheme, Adefuye has described it as “one of the salient foreign policy legacies of the Babangida administration. In his words:

“It is one programme that has demonstrated in very concrete terms, Nigeria’s total commitment to the economic and social development of Africa and the black world. TAC gave concrete expression to Africa being the centre piece of Nigeria’s foreign policy.”

He further observes that:

“The growing popularity of the programme in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries are clear testimonies of the success of the programme and a vindication of the rationale for its creation. TAC has further established Nigeria’s foreign policy imperatives as they relate the economic emancipation of countries.”

Although it is now seven years since the Babangida administration left office, there can be no doubt today over the enduring relevance of economic diplomacy. Following the resolution of the issues of decolonisation and racism, which once dominated Nigeria’s foreign policy, and in view of the urgent need for a foreign policy that is responsive to the multi-faceted phenomenon of globalisation, a return to economic diplomacy has become even more crucial to foreign policy in the 21st century, not only for Nigeria, but also for all countries of an increasingly marginalised Africa. The adoption of this policy by the Babangida administration, therefore, will always be acknowledged not only as a necessary complement to the Structural Adjustment Programme which it engaged in implementing at the time, but indeed as a visionary step, pointing the new direction towards which the foreign policies of African countries must be steered in the 21st century if we are to reposition the continent as a significant block in the global system.

Foreign Policy in the 21st Century: Enduring Imperative of Economic Diplomacy

In September 1999, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alhaji Sule Lamido promised the country that the PDP administration of Obasanjo was soon coming up with a new foreign policy, hopefully more attuned to the realities of the new democratic era and of the 21st century. In the Honourable Minister’s own words:

“I have received volumes of papers on how to forge a new and more focused as well as dynamic foreign policy. The papers are being collated and a position is being prepared … “We are going to come out with something very comprehensive that will embrace security as a sovereign nation, economic undertakings, Integration and cooperation.”

Although nothing more has been heard of this promised new policy up till now, a clear year after the promise was is strongly suggested in the last part of the above excerpt, that economic priorities will feature prominently in the new policy. Lamido himself further pointed in this direction when he explained that Nigeria was in fact articulating a programme of African response to globalisation which, with the cooperation of other African countries, would enable the continent to properly reposition herself within the international system.

Indeed, a major challenge to which our foreign policy must respond in this 21st century is that arising from the phenomenon of globalisation. This phenomenon refers to “the increased integration across countries of markets for goods, services and capital.”

In other words, it refers to the broadening and deepening linkages of national economies into a worldwide market for goods, services and especially capital. As a result of changes in economic policy across a wide range of countries and a revolution in telecommunications and information technologies, the last two decades of human history have witnessed dramatic increases in trade linkages and cross-border capital flows, as well as radical changes for the forms, structures and locations of production. Furthermore, due to developments in media technology and communication, globalisation has brought with it a growing tendency towards the universal homogenization of ideas, cultures, values and even lifestyles. In addition, running parallel with and even overarching the economic dynamics, there has been a growth of new supra-national policy regimes such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), and various global environmental conventions. And there has also been a subtle re­alignment of older bodies such as the Bretton Woods Institutions, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and even the United Nations.

However, while growth in global trade has been one of the most visible dimensions of globalisation, with global exports totaling over 7 trillion dollars or about 23 per cent of the world’s Output, this trade has not at all been enjoyed equally by all the world’s major regions. In the developing world, Asia and Latin America have had annual export growth rates of around 7 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, over the last 25 years. In terms of contribution to global trade, Latin America has maintained a share of about 5 per cent over this period, while Asia’s share has increased significantly, from about 16 to 27 per cent. In a profoundly disturbing contrast, however, over the same period, Africa has suffered an average annual decline of I per cent in her export trade, and the share of world merchandise trade had fallen from around 6 per cent in the early 1980s to about 2 per cent in the late 1990s. These figures clearly underscore the fact that, in terms of contribution to and participation in world trade, Africa is severely and continually marginalised.

A major challenge of our foreign policy in the 21st century therefore must include how to bring Africa to participate effectively and thus profitably in the globalisation of goods and trade. Ademola Oyejide suggests two critical channels that must be pursued towards achieving this objective one is to establish and strengthen Africa’s capacity to compete internationally. The other is to seek special market access abroad for the region’s exports

And it is especially in this second respect that the continuing imperative of economic diplomacy cannot be over-emphasised. What applies to Africa’s share of trade, however, similarly applies to her share of global investment. The global stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) was $3,233 billion in 1996, having grown at an annual average rate of 24 per cent between 1984 and 1990, and by 17 per cent annually from 1991 to 1996. As further evidence of this growth, FDI inflows, which averaged $28 billion in the 1970s, grew to $50 billion in the first half of the 1980s, $142 billion in the second half, and $243 billion between 1991 and 1996. But, here again, there have been marked disparities between regions. The bulk of FDI flows occur among the high income countries. Africa’s share of FDI inflows was only 1.4 per cent of global inflows in 1996, compared to 11 per cent for Latin America and the Caribbean, and 13 per cent for South-East Asia. Thus, like was observed in the arena of trade, Africa has remained greatly marginalised as a destination for foreign direct investment. Given that no, African country can presently boast of the capital investment it needs to develop her economy, the need for foreign investment inflow into the region is much greater today than it ever was in past decades. Consequently, countries in the region need to articulate and deploy every possible strategy, if this poor investment picture is to be improved. This again underscores the enduring imperative of economic diplomacy, as a major pre-occupation of foreign policy in the 21st century.


  1. London, Kurt, The Making of Foreign Policy Lippincott, New York, 1965, P. 1.
  2. Wallace, W. Foreign Policy and Political Powers. Macmillan, London, 1971, P. I
  3. Olusanya, G.O. and Akindele R (gds) Nigeria’s External Relations: The First Twenty Five Years. University Press, Ibadan, 1986. P. 2.
  4. Anifowoshe, R. “Overview of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy Since Independence” (Revised and updated by W.O. Alli).
  5. Ibid
  6. Babangida, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, maiden address on assumption of power 27, August, 1955.
  7. Chikelu, P.N. “Economic Diplomacy: Past and Present”, Nigerian Journal of International Studies, Vol. 15, 1 & 2, November, 1991, P. 19.
  8. See: Ministry of External Affairs, The Performance and Achievements of the Ministry of External Affairs under the Babangida Administration. August, 1985 – December, 1990, Ministry of External Affairs Lagos, O. 5.
  9. Akinterinwa, Bola A. “External Responses to Nigeria’s Economic Diplomacy” Nigerian Journals of International Studies Vol. 15, Nos 1 & 2, November, 1991, P.120.
  10. UBA monthly Business and Economy Digest, Vol. 14, No. 5, May, 1991.
  11. Adefuye, Ade, “Technical Aid Corps” in Olukotun, Ayo, Seven years of IBB, Volume 1: Foreign Policy, The Daily Times of Nigeria Plc, Lagos, 1993, P. 47 and 50.
  12. “New Foreign Policy Ready Soon – Lamido” Thisday, 2 September, 1999, P 1 – 2.
  13. Ohiorhenuan, John F.E. “The South in an Era of Globalisaton”, Cooperation South No. 2, 1998, P 7.
  14. Oyedije, T. Ademola, “African Trade Prospects in a Globalisaton Era”, Co-operation South, 1998, P. 112.