Nigeria Diaspora’s Contributions to National Development: A Political Economy Approach

London Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume | Issue | Compilation
Authored by Funmi Adu , NA
Classification: FOR Code: 160699
Keywords: nigerian diaspora, political economy, contributions, development.
Language: English

In the era of globalization, the importance of political economy as a theoretical application to issues such as diaspora intervention becomes germane. Politics, it is argued is a function of economic needs of states and the international political economy since the early 1990s has become more linked and impacted by local occurrences in states. The diaspora of different states have become involved in the politics of contribution to homeland and place of residence albeit with transnational implications of movements and activities. Political economy emphasizes the interrelatedness between politics and economics. Importantly in Nigeria, emerging new grounds of democratic reordering brought the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo who identified the need to tap into the growing resource base of the Nigerian Diaspora. In a bid to achieve this, the government went all out with projects, proposals and policies to encourage the Nigerian Diaspora to participate in development. In the era of globalization, the porosity of state, state sovereignty and state survival cum development hinge on interventions beyond the borders of the state. In the global economy of today, accesses to knowledge and to those who possess such knowledge serve as an ingredient to national economic development. International political economy is the relationship between political and economic changes and their impact on global and domestic political, market, and production activities. This paper identifies the economic consequence of the politics of Diaspora relations consequent upon the new favourable policies of the Obasanjo administration (targeted at Diaspora intervention) and further introduction of the globalization advantages viz; telephones, the internet, and other electronic activities. The paper posits that these interventions have contributed to national development.

               

Nigeria Diaspora’s Contributions to National Development:  A Political Economy Approach

Adu Funmilayo Modupe

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  1. ABSTRACT

In the era of globalization, the importance of political economy as a theoretical application to issues such as diaspora intervention becomes germane. Politics, it is argued is a function of economic needs of states and the international political economy since the early 1990s has become more linked and impacted by local occurrences in states. The diaspora of different states have become involved in the politics of contribution to homeland and place of residence albeit with transnational implications of movements and activities. Political economy emphasizes the interrelatedness between politics and economics. Importantly in Nigeria, emerging new grounds of democratic reordering brought the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo who identified the need to tap into the growing resource base of the Nigerian Diaspora. In a bid to achieve this, the government went all out with projects, proposals and policies to encourage the Nigerian Diaspora to participate in development. In the era of globalization, the porosity of state, state sovereignty and state survival cum development hinge on interventions beyond the borders of the state. In the global economy of today, accesses to knowledge and to those who possess such knowledge serve as an ingredient to national economic development. International political economy is the relationship between political and economic changes and their impact on global and domestic political, market, and production activities. This paper identifies the economic consequence of the politics of Diaspora relations consequent upon the new favourable policies of the Obasanjo administration (targeted at Diaspora intervention) and further introduction of the globalization advantages viz; telephones, the internet, and other electronic activities. The paper posits that these interventions have contributed to national development.

Keywords: nigerian diaspora, political economy, contributions, development.

Author: (Ph.D), Department of History and International Studies, Ekiti State University, Ado -Ekiti.

  1. INTRODUCTION

The Nigerian Diaspora constitutes a viable resource for the mobilization of development interventions. The Nigerian Diaspora gained more relevance in 1999, when President Olusegun Obasanjo identified the need to tap into the growing resource base of the Nigerian Diaspora, based on the assessment of their growing remittance contributions and the international trend of Diaspora contributions to the development of third world and developing countries. Majekodunmi and other (2012) argued that, the term political economy is used advisedly because it has been used to describe a number of different things in political science and international relations, from the application of rational individualism to the study of politics, to debates over policy with an economic dimension and the changing relationship between political systems and economic forces i.e how policy makers are being affected by economic forces and how policy makers affect economic forces. International political economy is the relationship between political and economic changes and their impact on global and domestic political, market, and production activities.

Anyanwu et al (1997: 6) further explain that, the parallel existence and mutual interaction of state and market in the modern world creates political economy. That is, political economy indicates a set of questions to be examined by means of an eclectic mixture of analytic methods and theoretical perspectives, where these questions are generated by the interaction of the state and the market as the embodiment of politics and economics in the modern world. He further noted that, such questions ask how the state and its associated political processes affect the production and distribution of wealth and, in particular , how political decisions and interests influence the location of economic activities and the distribution of the costs and benefits of this activities. Implying a series of legal and administrative relationships established among units of government possessing varying degrees of real authority and juridical autonomy (ibid). In this study, the term political economy is used to describe the changing national policy environment within the premise of external interventions of the Diaspora.

The paper addresses issues of how policy makers are being affected by economic forces and how policy makers affect economic forces. International political economy is the relationship between political and economic changes and their impact on global and domestic political, market and production activities to promote development.  Touching on the classical tradition of political economy, the study also addresses an important aspect of the globalisation agenda- i.e. the impact of technology on interchange. This paper is subsequently divided into theoretical considerations, the political economy of Diaspora’s contributions, the future of Nigerian Diaspora contributions and conclusion.

  1. THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS

The adoption of political economy as a theoretical framework is predicated upon the socio political cum economic indices manifesting the impacts of the Diaspora contributions to the development of the state. Ajayi (2002:81) argued that,’’ the concerns of the discipline are now seen in relation to changes in the nature of the socio-economic structure within which it is operating and the practical, material and intellectual problems that were thrown up within it’’. Globalization is also indicated in light of the implications of intensified contact due to technological inputs such as telephones, global media, telegraphs, transportation and the internet. It is important to note Pearson and Payaslian’s (1999) emphasis on the relevance of the nation state perspective, in which importantly, they explain the centrality of science and technology in modern political economy as problematic.

The challenge of modernist paradigm in areas of diasporic history and political economy by Eric Williams et al (cited in Rupert, 1998) was instrumental in shaping the thrust of what later became the dependency perspective of the 1960s and 1970s. This perspective added another chapter to modern Marxist scholarship and popularized the study of the political economy of development.(ibid). Rodney’s work emerges out of the critique of neo classical development theory popularized by Andre Gunder Frank and others (Gerald, 1974). Rodney assumes that processes of evolution were inhibited by ‘’communal egalitarianism ‘and movement of development was taking place when contact with Europeans thwarted or redirected it. Rodney (1972, 1988) further asserts that, the gradual incorporation of Africa into an international economic system within which the European powers were able to exploit their technological advantages to gain an increasing share of the African economic surplus redirected the process of African development i.e the accumulation of capital and development of industrial capacity in Europe. Rodney (ibid) stressed that, slave trade slowed development by causing depopulation, by redirecting African societies towards raiding (slaves) by creating conditions of insecurity and by discouraging technological and scientific progress within Africa. i.e. the relationship between the metropole(western Europe) and periphery which increasingly operated to the advantage of the rapidly evolving metropole and encouraged the stagnation of the peripheral societies (developing countries).

Unlike slavery and colonialism which was not based on consensus but on a monopoly of force, mass migration of Africans and Nigerians is based on self will due to economic disquiet. In Rodney’s definition of ‘development’ and ‘underdevelopment’, development is a shorthand term for the progress man has made both in bending nature to his will, and in the creation of an ability to regulate the internal and external relationships. Rodney affirms that, different people in all places and at all times have shown the capacity for development i.e for independently increasing their ability to live a more satisfactory life through exploiting the resources of nature (Rodney, 1972, 1988). In explaining the current state of African political economy, Rodney’s underdevelopment is theoretically and historically explained as ‘poor’, ‘have nots’(i.e poverty through misfortune, backward, developing, underdevelopment.) Underdevelopment for Rodney and Gunder Frank (cited in Gerald, 1974) means the perversion of a development process. Why should this perversion be recognized as such, Rodney’s answer is that, capitalist relations of production by their very nature have created a global political economy in which development for some (Europe) is underdevelopment for others (Africa) (ibid).

For Rodney, development is characterized by growth in economic production, equity in the distribution of the social product and autonomy in control over social processes (Rodney, 1988:9-10). Underdevelopment is not an original state but is a distorted structural condition actually generated by the effects of the deepening European hegemony imposed over the rest of the world since the 15th century. Underdevelopment is not a state overcome as backward societies improve in comparism with stages of advanced societies, but metropolitan capitalist development and peripheral underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin (ibid).

In the words of German American economist Andre Gunder Frank,

historical research demonstrates that contemporary underdevelopment is in large part  the historical product of past and continuing economies and other relations between the satellite underdeveloped and the new developed metropolitan countries. Furthermore, these relations are an essential part of the capitalist system on a world scale as a whole. (cited in development and Dependency pdf Reader)      

In the African crisis Onimode argues that the contemporary crisis on the African continent goes beyond the eclectic observations of starvation, massive unemployment, growing deficits, debts and sluggish economic growth (Onimode, 1988). He contends that the current crisis has its root in the institution of slavery, colonialism, and racism and contemporary neo-colonial stage. The paradox of Africa it is contended is that, it is the richest continent in mineral wealth, and yet the poorest as far as living conditions are concerned (cited in Isabirye, 2015). To Onimode and other Africanist scholars this paradox exist because, for centuries Africa’s wealth has benefited non Africans (ibid). Underdevelopment is a structural and historical, political, socio-economic and intellectual phenomenon. Intensifications of the contradictions of underdevelopment are visible in the food crisis, deplorable mass poverty, decimating diseases, pervasive illiteracy, technological backwardness, prostrate external dependency and mounting foreign debts (ibid).

To Onimode “the social trauma is exhibited in the sharpening social divisions arising from widening distributional inequalities, ethno religious primodalities, rising crime and cultural degradation’’ (cited in Jones, 2015). Applying the Marxian analysis, Onimode emphasized that, structural roots of these contradictions of the African crisis are anchored primarily to the relations of exploitation, domestic class structures, prostrate external dependence, and the distortions of the dominant neo-colonial social formations in Africa (ibid). Onimode further criticizes neo-colonial capitalist development and planning and explain the socio political failures in Africa noting like Rodney that, a construction of scientific socialist revolution is the solution to underdevelopment of neo colonial capitalism in Africa. Onimode criticizing the western social science accused it of failing to pinpoint the root cause of Africa/third world problems, let alone problems of the western world where it emanates. His dogmatic Leninist tenets as being panacea to the continents overwhelming problems, puts a lot of strain on the socialist prescriptions (ibid). Jones (ibid) argues that it is a truism that, contemporary global setbacks on the socialist tenets of the erstwhile eastern bloc has antiquated this stand in light of the breakup of the Soviet Union and considering its current opportunistic ties with the west.(Capitalism)(Jones, 2015).

Akes perception of political economy laid emphasis on the class struggle between the pre colonial social relations in Africa. The political economy approach treats social life and material existence in their relatedness (Ake, 1988:20). Majekodunmi and Adejuwon (2012) argued that, it is relevant to assert that an examination of the socio economic and political development processes in Nigeria provides a useful background for the analysis of the Nigerian development crisis. It is consequentially obvious that, political economy is a comprehensive interdisciplinary framework that involves the interrelatedness between the various levels of social interaction from the local through the national to the global. It is to know how societies are and can be transformed (ibid). Youngman’s (2000:3) analysis is relevant here; it states that, political economy approach deliberately moves the focus of analysis from individual choice and behaviour to a consideration of the historical and structural context within which individual actions takes place. Political economy seeks to explain the causes of the asymmetrical relations between developed and developing nations in the international division of labour and exchange. It located the root causes of third world underdevelopment on issues of imperialism, colonialism on one hand and also draws from the internal contradictions peculiar to the third world countries as fundamental causes of their underdevelopment (Majekodunmi and Adejuwon, 2012).

Majekodunmi and other (2012) further argued that, the term political economy is used advisedly because it has been used to describe a number of different things in political science and international relations, from the application of rational individualism to the study of politics, to debates over policy with an economic dimension and the changing relationship between political systems and economic forces i.e how policy makers are being affected by economic forces and how policy makers affect economic forces. In this study, the term political economy is used to describe the changing national (socio political and economic development) environment within the premise of external interventions of the diaspora.  Touching on the classical tradition of political economy, the study also addresses an important aspect of the globalization agenda- i.e the impact of technology on interchange.

Adopting the Majekodunmi and Adejumo (2012) stance, this study evaluates the political economy approach to social life and material existence in their relatedness (Ake, 1988:20). Political economy underscores the central importance of the mode of production and relations of production as a major causal factor in all social phenomena (Onimode, 1985:27). The approach also highlights the need for studying state intervention in support of development. Thus an examination of the socio economic and political development processes in Nigeria provides a useful background for the analysis of the Nigerian development crises (i.e underdevelopment). Political economy involves the interrelationship between the various levels of social interaction, from the local through the national to the global. Majekodunmi and other argued that, the primary goal of political economy is to know how societies are, and can be transformed. Political economy approach has a growing relevance to interdisciplinary concepts, such as globalization, governance and development. As a lens for examining society, political economy can generate new insights, to assist in enlisting fundamental changes in the African and Nigerian economy which Adedeji (1993)insists is not improving in any fundamental sense.

Anyanwu et al (1997: 6) further explain that, the parallel existence and mutual interaction of state and market in the modern world creates political economy. That is, political economy indicates a set of questions to be examined by means of an eclectic mixture of analytic methods and theoretical perspectives, where these questions are generated by the interaction of the state and the market as the embodiment of politics and economics in the modern world. He further noted that such questions ask how the state and its associated political processes affect the production and distribution of wealth and, in particular , how political decisions and interests influence the location of economic activities and the distribution of the costs and benefits of this activities. Implying a series of legal and administrative relationships established among units of government possessing varying degrees of real authority and juridical autonomy (ibid).

This research empirically explores how the contributions of the Nigerian Diaspora change/affect the development of homeland, consequent upon responses to government policies to lure the Diaspora to participate in development. The physical evidence of development, it is conjectured, is shaped by the social presence in which they exist. (i.e. presence of physical indices). Development theorists see development as consequent upon actions of government and civil societies, as arenas in which institutional and infrastructural reforms are implemented to improve the society. Success in this instance is dependent on and measured by the physical presence of development indices. The examination of the physical presence of development features is a function of the physical attributes of expected contributions of the Diaspora (as considered in this research) i.e. What difference did the contributions of the Diaspora make to the development of their Homeland?

The UNDP (1999) adopts the view that globalization is the growing interdependence of the worlds people through shrinking space, time and disappearing borders”. Globalization has also been defined as a process fuelled by, and resulting in, creating cross border flows of goods, services, money, people information and culture. . The new applicability of globalization has enabled  Cuko and Traore (2011:7) to express that globalization has allowed Diaspora communities to flourish partly due to increased ease of communications brought about by the new technologies, facilitation of financial flows which enabled the resources of Diaspora to be efficiently channeled , but also because of the reconfiguration of the worlds geographical space with change of values for the emergence of a heterogeneous social fabrics in most countries. Cuko and Traore (2011) therefore concluded that in this global context it becomes reasonable to expect actors who are not located within national frontiers to act upon home issues, impacting on aspects of states, decision and development. The Nigerian Diaspora with the advantages of technology is to influence happenings and advance development of the homeland.

  1. THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF DIASPORA’S CONTRIBUTIONS

4.1  Remittance                

Remittance records the most notable means of Diaspora participation in Nigeria’s development.  The World Bank recorded that remittance is used for services like health, housing, business startups and education.  From the national perspective, financial remittances have been shown to substantially affect a nation’s balance of payment and foreign exchange revenues.  World Bank report shows that Nigerians in the Diaspora remitted the sum of ten billion US dollars to Nigeria in 2008, a 47 percent of the year’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Chukwuma Soludo (2013) noted that the World Banks figures recorded remittances of about 10 percent of Nigeria’s GDP in 2012 (about 21 billion dollars).

Remittances has impacted positively on poverty alleviation, they have paid medical bills, school fees, burials and social activities and established small scale businesses.  Remittances also, it is suggestive, help stabilize the foreign exchange demand (NGEX internet source).  Social capital in return migration or virtually by using communication technologies in host countries can provide access to more developed markets.

The sale of Diaspora bond is targeting the savings of migrants abroad.  Nigeria had been available on the international markets on regular bond issuance since 2011 and 2012.  Diaspora bonds are used to finance infrastructure and development projects.  The Nigerian Finance Minister, (2014) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was a keen advocate of tapping the wealth of migrants to finance infrastructural projects in their home countries.  Lack of trust on government ingenuity and transparency with the perception of high corruption, weak justice system and lack of policy continuity is a hindrance to the success of the project. Remittances therefore have responded to government interventions in luring the Diaspora to participate in development.

4.2  Economic

Interest in economic investment is rising due to awareness creation by Diaspora and Nigerian government activities and policies. In 2011, a group of Nigerian trade missions from the Diaspora concluded a three week investment drive to some states of Nigeria.  They called on the Federal government to expedite action on the provision of an enabling environment as a morale booster to fast track their return to invest in the national economy.  They visited Kogi, Kwara, Oyo, Bayelsa, Cross River and FCT Abuja. The Nigerian government has created programmes and projects such as the Nigerian Diaspora day celebrations, a forum for interaction with Diaspora participants to understand and give feedback to solutions to challenges faced by Diaspora in interventions. Special adviser’s portfolio and other governmental assessment units have also been created to further solve arising problems.

4.3  Education

Diaspora citizens have tried to compliment effort of government in the areas of education and health, school adoption rehabilitation, provision of equipment like computers and accessories, upgrading of libraries and laboratories.  Diaspora Nigerian academics visited the Nigerian University Commission in 2010. This was to brainstorm on best practices in university management and improving the system especially in capacity building.  The idea of exchange programs especially through improved communications was buffeted.

The Nigerian Higher Education Foundation in partnership with another foreign NGO launched in 2004, a non for profit organization that seeks to enhance the quality of education in Nigeria, through direct support. It holds an annual banquet since 2009 to honour some distinguished leaders for their commitment to sustainable development through education and serve as inspiration to all Nigerians in Diaspora. This is importantly responsive to governmental policy instituted to encourage participation.

4.5  Investment

The governmental interventions in foreign exchange stabilization, especially during the Obasanjo regime were to encourage participation in the newly introduced bond. Diaspora Nigerians have invested in shares and stocks and are interested in the newly introduced bonds.  There have been initiatives of Diaspora engineers to participate in the energy, communication and transportation sectors. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (based in Nigeria) noted that, Diaspora Nigerians return home to seek employment or business opportunities, small and medium scale enterprises have emerged from such efforts.  Diaspora Nigerians hold youth support to promote leadership empowerment and networking to drive the modernization agenda.  Such was the Nigerian Diaspora Youth Leadership summit held in London at the Kings College, August 2012.

4.6  Political

Politically, policy options are particular in the attempt to encourage participation challenges notwithstanding. Diaspora political socio- economic groups campaign for democratic reforms as part of development in Nigeria in response to the domestic encouragements.  The 1990s witnessed the UK based Nigerian Diaspora foundation of the pro-democracy organization, the United Democratic Front for Nigeria Abroad (UDFN) also the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) abroad, coordinated the activities of pro-democracy movements in Nigeria and abroad and in recent times campaigned for constitutional reforms.  They continue to act as watchdogs of democracy. Diasporas engage indirectly in politics and sponsor political parties and elective offices.

4.7  Non-governmental Organisations

The National Volunteer Service (NNVS) and Nigerians in Diaspora organization NIDO are non-governmental organizations formed to coordinate Diaspora Nigerians in the important bid to assist development.  NIDO’s vision and mission is anchored on the philosophy of using human resources of professional Nigerians to enhance the development of Nigerians abroad.  NIDO was established in the year 2000 with headquarters in London.  It is the official platform recognized by government to partner with public and private businesses in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Professional Networking, stakeholder’s advocacy and skill transfer to Nigeria.  NIDO in the face of Nigeria’s development challenges promises to expand resources on trade and investment missions across Nigeria as well as hosting trade missions to Europe and other capitals across the world.

4.8  Social

Hagher (2009) noted that Nigerians are hooked on Nigerian culture. They promote exhibition of art, theatre performance and music concerts.  Nigerians wear cultural attires, patronize and sell indigenous cuisine.  Igbo day is celebrated in the USA, the Isaac Boro day by the Deltans, cultural associations are formed to create bonds and promote indigenous cultures amongst members.  These associations also sponsor development initiatives in Nigeria.

4.9  Medical Assistance

Diaspora Nigerians often mobilize medical teams to Nigeria, drugs, check-ups and treatment are often given free of charge, sometimes free operations are done as assistance to patients in need.  Nigerian doctors in the Diaspora and other stakeholders converged in Abuja on September 5, 2012 to brainstorm on how to actualize the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration in the health care sector and seek collaboration of the private sector to provide best healthcare delivery services in Nigeria.  In 2011, the Federal government had signed an MOU, with the association of Nigerian physicians in the Americas (ANPA) and the medical association of the health professionals from the Diaspora.  Special areas of impact are on good conduct and behavior.

Other professionals such as engineers and accountants contribute variedly to Nigeria’s development.  There have been individual contributions to locality and state development.  Some contribute directly to their alma mater and some give scholarships to indigent students.  Ethnic and professional associations are also visible at local level contributions.

Negative contributions such as assistance to politicians in money laundering, favour for fat contracts, assistance to buy properties abroad, harlottery.  Trafficking, 419 scam etc., bring negative image to Nigeria but the huge population of law-abiding diasporans encourages further, the need to partner with them for development purposes.

It is the argument herewith therefore that, favourable governmental policies encouraged contributions and the contributions of the diaspora, especially through remittances, further ensured government interest to promote good policies to further encourage diaspora participation. Further in the argument of this author, globalization has also promoted diaspora contributions, as technology applications have increased contact and intensified diaspora interest in domestic issues and development intervention.

V.  THE FUTURE OF NIGERIAN DIASPORA CONTRIBUTIONS

The contributions of the Nigerian Diaspora have the potential to increase and positively impact development. This is especially in the era of globalization and technology. Political decisions have influence on economic development through the intervention of the Diaspora. The Nigerian Diaspora gained more relevance in 1999, when President Olusegun Obasanjo identified the need to tap into the growing resource base of the Nigerian Diaspora, based on the assessment of their growing remittance contributions and the international trend of Diaspora contributions to the development of third world and developing countries. The term political economy is used to describe a number of different things from the application of rational individualism to the study of politics, to debates over policy with an economic dimension and the changing relationship between political systems and economic forces i.e how policy makers are being affected by economic forces and how policy makers affect economic forces. International political economy is the relationship between political and economic changes and their impact on global and domestic political, market, and production activities. In the instance of Nigeria, diaspora contributions could be considered an externally driven economic force, encouraged by political decisions of the Obasanjo administration and beyond.

  1. CONCLUSION

The application of political economy of Diaspora intervention for Nigeria is predicated upon the need to encourage the Diaspora to assist in development intervention of the homeland. It is important to note that, government policies must continue to favour and promote Diaspora relations with homeland. Nigeria is an underdeveloped country grappling with corruption and poverty. Taping the wealth of the large chunk of her population residing elsewhere like China, Philippines and Korea amongst others is a deciderata. There is no limit to Diaspora’s contributions in the future with the introduction of technology advantages. The advantages of telephones, the internet and global network of interchange will continue to ensure easy access and economic facilitation. Transportation advantages are also faster and easier to network. Diaspora transnational activities are further promoted through electronic technological advantage. The Nigerian Diaspora must of necessity respond to governmental encouragement to assist the underdeveloped nation benefit like others such as China, the Philippines and elsewhere.

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