from Africa in Transition

Nigeria: What if Globalization Reverses?

December 28, 2012

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This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

According to Fortune Magazine, investments in foreign held assets are decreasing. Joshua Cooper Ramo points out that, “figures on investment in assets held overseas, probably the best indicator of enthusiasm for globalism, are drifting down toward 40 percent from more than 50 percent in 2008.”  Ramo further notes that during “most of the past twenty years trade has raced ahead of global economic growth,” but in the last twenty-four months, it has slowed and, “this year, globally we’ll be below the twenty year average rate of trade growth yet again.”  According to Ramo, “We find everywhere signs of a world turning inward and of an era when the inside will define success and deliver growth—for companies, for nations, even for your career—in the way the outside once did.”

If true, and if sustained, where would such a trend toward an “inside world” leave Nigeria?  The country has, and does, depend heavily on export markets and foreign investment to maintain its oil industry, which provides 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of its budgetary revenue.  Moreover, trade integration is believed to contribute to economic performance.  Nigerian officials have considered “deeper trade integration as a means to foster economic growth and alleviate poverty,” according to some researchers. Yet the country’s National Bureau of Statistics reports unemployment at 21 percent, implying, says the Leadership newspaper, “policy failure.”

Economic shortcomings are paralleled by stalling anti-corruption efforts.  Transparency International ranked Nigeria 139 out of 179 countries surveyed, making it, the second most corrupt country in West Africa. Security continues to deteriorate.  Nigeria is now the seventh-most terrorized country in the world, according to the Global Terrorism Index.

Ramo argues that when globalizing eras end, they “generally take nations that don’t adapt for a very unpleasant ride.”   Operating on old ideas, their leaders typically fail to grasp dynamics of the new age.  This is what revolutions are made of, he suggests.  If so, Nigeria may be closer to the brink than previously thought.