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CGD Hosts Nigerian Acting President Goodluck Jonathan

April 19, 2010

CGD hosted a public talk last week by Nigerian Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. During the speech, the acting president discussed key issues facing his country before a standing-room-only crowd dominated by exuberant Nigerians. Before the speech, the acting president spoke at a private breakfast with development experts, diplomats, and senior U.S. and World Bank officials.

During the speech, Acting President Jonathan called upon the United States to support Nigeria’s efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions, to increase private investment in Nigeria, to diversify U.S. imports from Nigeria beyond oil, and share technology to help meet Nigeria’s electricity needs.  “Without fixing [electrical] power, you cannot create jobs – you cannot create wealth,” he said.

The power sector is among Africa’s biggest hurdles to development according to a CGD book Africa's Private Sector: What's Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It.

CGD president Nancy Birdsall expressed concern that despite Nigeria’s $300 billion in oil revenue since 1970, incomes have remained low and poverty is widespread. Nigeria demonstrated improvement between 2003-2007, but preoccupation with domestic political infighting since 2007 has hurt Nigeria’s progress, she said.

Acting President Jonathan said he was working to improve the electoral process by strengthening the accountability of electoral agents at polling stations. National elections are due in 12 months.

“At the polling units, election (results) should be declared by their polling agent,” he said. “What has happened in the past is that at the end of the vote, the results are not declared at the polling station.” The acting president also thanked CGD for its role in debt relief. “I would like to applaud the supportive role by the Center in facilitating Nigeria’s debt buy-back in 2005,” he said.

CGD vice president and senior fellow Todd Moss, who chaired the breakfast discussion and the audience Q&A following the public speech, led CGD's analytical work in support of Nigeria's efforts to persuade its creditors to agree to an appropriate debt relief package. As a result, Nigeria’s debt stock was reduced by some $30 billion dollars.

Birdsall expressed her interest in continuing to offer analytical support to Nigeria’s development efforts.

“We’re very interested in working with the Nigerians to deal with the management of their oil – perhaps in new ways – over the next few years,” she said.

Moss has proposed that Ghana consider direct distribution of at least part of the revenue from new oil discoveries directly to citizens on a flat per capita basis. In forthcoming work, he explores the possibility of applying the approach to other African countries with oil.