Soft power is the opposite of coercive capability or hard power, such as the use of economic and military might. Soft power involves trying to influence other countries using culture, values and policies.
South Africa is one of the African countries that has taken advantage of the opportunity that the use of soft power presents. It’s successfully hosted international summits and sporting events such as the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the 2010 World Cup football tournament.
I would argue that Nigeria, with its impressive soft power capabilities, has surprisingly lagged behind.
There are three key ways in which Nigeria exercises some degree of soft power. These are culture, business and foreign policy programmes that send Nigerians abroad to help with peacekeeping and skills training.
Despite having remarkable soft power resources, there’s no coordination of efforts to harness their potential. Compare this to China, that has used its soft power assets to extend influence across the world. This has included building Confucius Institutes, exporting cheap products and offering development assistance. These have shaped the preferences of other states and consequently helped it to emerge a global power.
Abuja does not manage its soft power carefully.
Nigeria’s first problem is that it has a democracy deficit. The country doesn’t score well on major indices such as the Democracy Index, The Freedom House, the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index that all measure democratic governance.
This damages Nigeria’s democracy credentials and undermines its moral authority to promote effective governance across the continent.
The influence of Nollywood
One of the most potent promoters of Nigeria’s cultural soft power is arguably Nollywood. The country’ movie industry has displaced Hollywood and Bollywood as the most important movie industry on the continent. It has also overshadowed local content across Africa and its diaspora. It’s now the world’s second largest producer of films after Bollywood.
Its increasing appeal is demonstrated by its visibility in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. Among African viewers, the extent of Nollywood’s influence can be heard in mimicking the Nigerian accent, growth of Nigerian pidgin English, and Nigerian fashion.
Nigerian music has also made inroads. For example, Nigerian musicians have dominated the MTV Africa Music Awards since their inauguration in 2008. And many black British and American artists are of Nigerian origin. Some, such as Jidenna and Simon Webbe, have used their fame to promote Nigerian culture, and to challenge negative stereotypes of their ancestral home.
Both Nollywood and the music industry provide the platforms to challenge the negative portrayal of Nigeria and its 180 million citizens as purveyors of corruption, drug-trafficking, terrorism, fraud, and internet scams.
But neither has been able to shift the dial in Nigeria’s favour. Take Nollywood, it has failed to exert the same sort of influence as Hollywood in the US which not only showcases the US’s economic and military might but also its cultural hegemony. This is in no small part a consequence of the US government’s significant support to the industry.
Compare this with the small grants offered to Nollywood. These are clearly insignificant given the potential of the industry.
In the realm of foreign policy, Nigeria’s soft power is illustrated by its peacemaking and peacekeeping roles. This is most notable in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Sudan’s Darfur region. This is addition to contributions to regional integration in West Africa and liberation struggles in southern Africa.
Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps has served as an institutional platform to project the country’s soft power. Through this initiative, Nigeria sends volunteers to countries with a dearth of skills in fields such as architecture, engineering, law, medicine, and science.
Since its inception three decades ago, more than 4000 volunteers have been deployed to over 38 countries. Ongoing requests for these volunteers serve as proof that Nigeria’s skilled workers are in demand.
Nevertheless, the technical volunteer programme and Abuja’s overall foreign policy have failed to change anti-Nigerian sentiments fundamentally. This reflects a lack of coordinated efforts by the Nigerian government to subtly use the opportunity presented by the Technical Aid Corps.
Seizing the opportunity
Given these realities, Nigeria is, at best, a potential soft power state. While its soft power resources are greater than most other African states, its soft power influence leaves much to be desired.
To ameliorate this situation, Abuja should take advantage of the soft power resources at the country’s disposal. West Africa’s Gulliver has abundant human and material resources. Nollywood needs to reinvent itself to shape the perception of its African audiences about the country. Nigerian policymakers and academics, finally, must engage the sources and implications of Nigeria’s soft power.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday in Pretoria, enjoined South Africans to be more tolerant to other Africans and advised Nigerians living in the country to respect the laws of their host country.
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s spokesman in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the Nigerian leader stated this when he responded to questions during a news conference at the Union Building, alongside his host, President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He called for more tolerance, vigilance and heightened security to ensure safety of citizens, noting ”competition heralded by globalisation, especially with ease in migration, will only get more intense for businesses”.
“Police must be on alert not to allow violence to escalate,’’ he said.
President Buhari said the business world have turned out more dynamic over the years, with foreigners competing with locals in businesses that were initially considered low.
He said the panacea would only be for security agencies to show more interest in market operations, players and likely areas of tensions.
The President likened the situation of Nigerians in South Africa to Ghana where competition at low levels of the economy breeds intense competition, noting that it would keep growing with population explosion.
He told Nigerians living in various parts of the world, especially in South Africa, to adhere to the laws of the country they reside, and ensure compliance with market laws.
“Like it is said, ‘when you are in Rome behave like the Romans’. Always be law abiding,’’ he said.
Earlier in his remark, the President condemned attacks on Nigerians and the burning of their properties in South Africa, describing it as “unacceptable’’.
He also assured the South African government that their citizens and businesses in Nigeria would always be protected from harm.
He also condemned the reprisal attacks in Nigeria.
“In my discussions with President Ramaphosa and the Bi-National Commission meeting, we reviewed wide range of issues at national, regional, continental and global levels,’’ he added.
He said some of the issues were on trade, investment, mining, security, police affairs and environment.
“Our two countries have also agreed to unequivocally address the challenges in our relations including the recent people to people challenges that saw attacks against foreign nationals, including Nigerians, and their properties, which we strongly condemned,” he disclosed.
In his remarks, President Ramaphosa said the attacks on foreigners in South Africa, including Nigerians, were regrettable, assuring that his government would work hard to see an end to such attacks.
He equally condemned reprisal attacks in Nigeria.
According to him, President Buhari is the first president to embark on a state visit in South Africa since they came into power.
“We will work together to promote cohesion and best values. What happened did not reflect our values.
“We both condemn the attacks and the reprisal in strongest terms. We will set up mechanisms for early signals,’’ he said.
Ramaphosa said his country would also create a more enabling environment for Nigerian businesses to thrive in South Africa, acknowledging that more South African companies operate in Nigeria.
He, however, observed that Nigerians were mostly in Small and Medium Scale sectors in his country.
“We have large corporations operating in Nigeria while you have small and medium enterprises from Nigeria here in South Africa,” he said.
He promised to deepen the reforms in his country to open the space for more Nigerian business to “address the imbalance”.
“The rule of law must be obeyed by all citizens. Nigerians in South Africa must obey the rule of law, while South Africans in Nigeria must obey the rule of law,’’ he added.
Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, signed agreements on the minutes of the 9th session of Bi-National Commission.
The two leading global economies, the U.S. and China, have succeeded in maintaining a high profile through creating a space that encourages business growth and building alluring cities that attract investors from the outside.
While Nigeria is struggling to maintain a GDP profile of $397.30 billion, according to stats as of 2018; the U.S., as early as 2017, already sits on an intimidating $19.39 trillion in nominal terms, a figure that has been projected to hit $21 trillion by 2019.
The Chinese miracle
Between 1980 and 2019, approximately 40 years, China has recorded a feat that positions it competitively to displace the U.S. economy. In fact, some analysts believe that China might achieve this in 4 years, going by it growth plan.
From a slim GDP of $305.35 billion in 1980 when size of the U.S. economy was $2.86 trillion, the Chinese government has successfully climbed up on the ladder. What we now have is a China with an average 10% annual economic growth, with a GDP pegged at $12.01 trillion in 2017.
How did China get there?
China, in 1978, entered into its market reform agenda, investing in the creation of enabling environment for businesses to thrive by involving the de-collectivization of agriculture, the opening up of the country to foreign investment (the focus of this review), and permission for entrepreneurs to start businesses.
This would not have been possible without China’s decision to embrace and gradually build a highly-developed and technologically-driven manufacturing sector. Today, China is cited as the world’s manufacturing capital.
The place of foreign investment
It is enough reason to seek foreign investments given its advantage position in rapidly scaling up an economy, the case of what we discovered in China. Be it in form of an ordinary foreign portfolioinvestment (FPI) or a major foreign direct investment (FDI), most advanced countries push to attract as much as possible to balance their economies.
When a country attracts Quality FDI, experts believe that such economy will witness the creation of decent and value-adding jobs, record a general enhancement in the skill base of the nation, facilitate the transfer of technology, knowledge and know-how while boosting competitiveness of domestic firms and enabling their access to markets. Aside this, foreign investments lead citizens to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
The U.S. and China have harnessed this disposition to sweep in a fortune worth billions of dollars, earning them respect as super powers today. According to the World Bank, the United States and the United Kingdom, as of 2016, were the world’s biggest recipients of FDI. It reported then that the U.S. had FDI net inflows of $479 billion, while the U.K. received $299.7 billion –and, China, not doing badly, with $170.6 billion to its profile.
Available stats revealed that Nigeria’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has only increased by $909.5 million in Jun 2019. This, according CEIC DATA, is a drop compared with the increase of $1.2 billion in the previous quarter.
CBN, in June 2019, has revealed that the total capital flows to Nigeria, from January to May 2019 stood at $14.2bn, where FDI accounted for $2.87bn. Against this backdrop, for an opportunity to attract more investments from the outside, a lot has to be done internally by the government.
What must Nigeria do to secure votes of foreign investors?
Understanding that no country has ever recorded success by sitting back or feigning hostility is important. To develop, hence, is to deploy both human and capital resources to work.
In doing this, some harsh policies need to be reviewed while some need to be discarded completely as they serve to the disadvantage of the country. The Nigerian government can, thus, take a leaf or two from these republished expert recommendations from scholars at the London School of Economics (LSE) in a review on strategies to attract quality foreign direct investment for developing countries.
1. Open markets and allow for FDI inflows. Reduce restrictions on FDI. Provide open, transparent and dependable conditions for all kinds of firms, whether foreign or domestic, including: ease of doing business, access to imports, relatively flexible labour markets and protection of intellectual property rights.
2. Set up an Investment Promotion Agency(IPA). A successful IPA could target suitable foreign investors and could then become the link between them and the domestic economy. On the one side, it should act as a one-stop shop for the requirements investors demand from the host country.
On the other side, it should act as a catalyst in the host’s domestic economy, prompting it to provide top notch infrastructure and ready access to skilled workers, technicians, engineers and managers that may be required to attract such investors (Moran, 2014; Barnes et al., 2015; Harding and Javorcig, 2012).
Moreover, it should engage in after-investment care, acknowledging the demonstration effects from satisfied investors, the potential for reinvestments, and the potential for cluster-development because of follow-up investments.
3. Think carefully about sectors/activities to be targeted. Investment and location decisions of suppliers may be dependent on those of prime multinational investors in the host economy (McKinsey, 2001; Javorcik et al., 2006).
4. Put up the infrastructure required for a quality investor: such as sufficient close-by transport facilities (airport, ports), adequate and reliable supply of energy, provision of an adequately skilled workforce, facilities for the vocational training of specialised workers, ideally designed in cooperation with the investor (Ibid.).
5. Strengthen backward linkages from FDI into the indigenous economy. Allow for the competitive pressure of foreign entrants on their local suppliers to raise competitiveness of the latter (Rhee et al., 1990), and allow for multiple forms of direct assistance from foreign to domestic firms, in the form of training, help with setting up production lines, management coaching regarding strategy and financial planning, financing, assistance with quality control and introduction to export markets (Javorcik and Spatareanu, 2005; Blalock and Gertler, 2008; Godart and Görg, 2013; Görg and Seric, 2016).
6. Encourage spillovers from FDI into the indigenous economy. Local firms set up by managers who had started in multinational firms are more successful and more productive than others (Görg and Strobl, 2005).
Managers of local firms gain knowledge of new technologies and marketing techniques by studying and imitating their multinational competitors (Javorcic and Spatareanu, 2005; Boly et al., 2015). Similarly, worker movements from multinational to local firms spread knowledge and skills.
7. Encourage first-time foreign direct investors. Foreign firms that are not already part of an extensive network of subsidiaries are readier to accept linkages to domestic suppliers (Amendolagine et al., 2015).
8. Encourage foreign direct investors from diaspora members. These are also more likely to generate linkages to domestic firms and contribute to the internationalisation of the host country (Boly et al., 2014).
9. Provide access to credit by reforming domestic financial markets. Setting-up a business-friendly financial system helps indigenous firms to respond to challenges and impulses from foreign entrants, to self-select into supplier status, and to thereby grow and prosper (Alfaro et al., 2009).
10. Set up a vendor development programmeto support the match making process between foreign customer and local supplier. To strengthen the capacity of the domestic economy, it may offer financing opportunities to indigenous suppliers for required investment on the basis of purchase contracts from foreign buyers (see the Local Industry Upgrading Program (LIUP) of Singapore), or reimburse the salary of a manager in a foreign plant acting as a talent scout among domestic suppliers (see the example of the Singapore’s Economic Development Board).
11. Shape Export Processing Zones(EPZs) in a way that they spearhead into the domestic economy. Avoid EPZ regulations discriminating against the creation of local supplier relationships.
Set up a secondary industrial zone for local suppliers, be it as a geographical site adjacent to formal export processing zones, or be it as a legal status allowing for easy foreign-domestic linkages with, for example, databanks and “marriage counselors”, to assist in supplier selection (Moran et al., 2016).
12. Refocus the “Who Is Us?”perspective and address related concerns adequately. “Us” should be understood as the firms that are most beneficial to the domestic economy irrespective of the nationality of their owners. Therefore, the firms that create the highest-skilled and highest-paying jobs, the least-expensive products, and the most competitive exports are considered “Us” (Reich, 1990).
13. Be patient and rely on the gradual structural transformationof the domestic economy. Investors may come in waves. For example, first, investors in thermionic tubes, valves and transistors, then, in television and broadcasting systems, and finally, in computers, computer peripherals, and data processing systems.
Along such avenues, FDI may contribute to diversifying and upgrading domestic production (Amendolagine et al., 2013; Moran, 2014; Barnes et al., 2015).
Nigeria needs a business dedicated leadership system that understands how to diagonise the malaria of corporate economics. Without this, Africa’s most populous nation might continue to merry-go-round in circles of failed successions or soon lose its place in the current ranking as Africa’s largest economy to the rivalry of South Africa or Egypt.
Mr Itohoimo Udosen A Political/Public Affairs Analyst