It is squarely in the interest of the United States to see that Nigeria becomes an even more attractive place to do business for these companies and for the businesses that are yet to arrive. Nigeria’s population is expected to double within thirty or forty years, meaning tens of millions of young people will be entering the labour market in the coming decades. Nigeria desperately needs the investments that can provide jobs for this burgeoning youth population. Yet the economic growth and investment necessary are hindered by one especially pernicious phenomenon: corruption.
Corruption in Nigeria diverts financial resources from building roads, and bridges, curtailing the development of infrastructure that is needed to make Nigeria more competitive. It drains the federal treasury of funds that could do wonders in expanding and improving the education provided to millions of Nigerian children, which in turn would enhance Nigeria’s economic future. And corruption forestalls additional spending on medical clinics and preventive health care – spending that countless studies have shown reap long-term economic rewards for a country when properly implemented. In short, corruption is a scourge that undermines virtually everything that could move Nigeria towards a brighter economic future.
While we recognise that fighting corruption is primarily a Nigerian problem that requires Nigerians solutions, the U.S. Government is partnering with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to provide technical assistance in anti-corruption efforts. We also regularly hear from civil society leaders regarding their concerns on this issue. As you all know so well, this is a complicated, tremendously difficult issue to solve. Civil society, the media, NGOs, are key watchdogs on this issue. We are open to dialoguing with government and civil society about ways that the United States can be a good partner to Nigeria as it takes on this issue.
Another major long-term challenge to Nigeria has been power generation. My friends in the private sector regularly tell me that solving Nigeria’s electricity woes would unleash enormous levels of economic growth that would benefit both our countries. For this reason, and because of our historic friendship, Nigeria has been named a focus country in President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.
Power Africa aims to double the number of Sub-Saharan African households with access to electricity. The U.S. will put $7 billion of its own money into the initiative, but our contribution alone will not be sufficient to make up the energy deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our resources are designed to incentivize the private sector to get involved. And it’s working. We have recorded over $9 billion in initial commitments from private companies; General Electric plans to invest over $1 billion in Nigeria, and Heirs Holdings, which is based here in Ikoyi, is pledging $2.5 billion. We’re also working to support the Jonathan Administration to ensure that the power sector reform process is a success. Helping to light up Nigeria makes sense for the United States economically, and it’s also the right thing for us to do as a friend to this great nation.
There are not many countries with which the United States shares a relationship as deep and multi-faceted as the one we have with Nigeria. And that brings me back to the one of the primary reasons I am addressing you today: the forthcoming meeting of the U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission meeting in Abuja on regional security. During the meetings, we plan to reaffirm our joint commitment and partnership to work with the Government of Nigeria toward lasting security in northern Nigeria – with a particular focus on human rights.