In the more than 15 years since the return of democracy in 1999, the size of Nigeria’s economy has more than tripled, surpassing that of South Africa as the continent’s largest in 2013. Despite this expansive economic growth, the Nigerian government still draws over 80% of its revenue from oil exports. This has eroded the government’s accountability to its citizens, with only a marginal percentage of this oil revenue flowing back to projects that meaningfully impact the county’s citizens. Human development indicators remain very low; social and regional inequality remain very high; rural and urban development outside the oil sector has been limited (though accelerating in the last decade); and political and regulatory actors have appropriated a substantial proportion of extractive sector revenues for private use. Dependence on oil exports has also stymied the diversification of the economy, an issue of growing concern given the dropping price of oil internationally.
In this context, the Ford Foundation’s West Africa office approached CBI in 2013 to manage a broader and deeper conversation on using oil revenue for development and diversifying the broader economy. CBI was well positioned for this project as it has engaged in multi-stakeholder consensus building work in Nigeria for many years. CBI has worked at the national level on development planning with the United Nations, government, and civil society and in the Niger Delta with international oil companies and communities affected by their operations. CBI has also advised government at the most senior levels on strategies for conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the Niger Delta.
CBI noted certain factors making the conversation around oil revenue use and economic diversification more feasible at the end of 2013: Nigeria has credible reformers in government, a lively free press, increasingly vocal civil society organizations, and some progressive business leaders. In addition, CBI has a credible and experienced Nigerian facilitation partner, the New Nigeria Foundation (NNF). Together, Ford Foundation, CBI, and NNF decided that the time might be right to bring key stakeholders together to explore how to translate oil and gas revenue into greater developmental impact for Nigerians as well as catalyze broader economic change.
CBI began by assessing the potential to hold a national, multi-stakeholder forum on oil and gas revenue for development and economic diversification, which could meaningfully change the national conversation and influence the course of policy reform. To this end, CBI and NNF conducted a wide-ranging stakeholder assessment, interviewing over 100 leaders reflecting Nigeria’s regional, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity. CBI received positive response that also reinforced its sense that the Forum’s mandate, participants, and engagement strategies would have to be carefully designed to ensure that the Forum would be constructive, credible, and influential.
Following this positive response, CBI and NNF launched the Forum for Inclusive Nigerian Development (FIND) in May 2014. CBI created FIND as a multi-stakeholder forum focused on catalyzing the diversification of Nigeria’s economy and government revenue sources in support of broad-based, sustainable development. FIND’s members include a diverse and influential set of Nigerian leaders in government, business, community development, academia, youth and women’s empowerment, media, and culture.
Over the course of several meetings, CBI assisted the Forum in building consensus on a shared vision for diversifying Nigeria’s economy and government revenues “beyond oil”; produced a Call to Action making the case for diversification; and promoted public discussion and debate on diversification issues through public forums, the Internet, and the media.
In addition, the Forum recognized that the time from 2015 to 2017 could provide a critical window of opportunity for Nigeria’s government, citizens, and constituencies to make significant shifts in Nigeria’s political economy given the transition to new Federal government officials post election. Thus, the Forum, supported by CBI, drafted the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan that seeks to accomplish three objectives over the timeframe:
Over the 2015-2017 timeframe, CBI will continue to advise FIND as it implements its near term strategic plan. FIND has already begun to leverage the influence and diversity of its membership and conveners (NNF and CBI) to engage and support governors and their economic teams—and counterpart state leaders in business, civil society, religion, media, and academia—to jointly develop, launch, and implement diversification initiatives.
Many FIND members have direct contact with incoming and re-elected state governors. They have committed to use their influence to encourage governors to use FIND as a resource for convening broad-based leadership initiatives. The team also plans to identify promising Local Government Associations (LGAs) to partner with to achieve FIND’s objectives at the state level. If successful, this partnership will enable participating states to:
Equally important for governance, the initiative will dramatically broaden and deepen state- and local-level leadership and citizen awareness, engagement, transparency, and accountability on the critically important issue of economic and revenue diversification.