Tinubu uses summit invite to explore G20 membership and seek investment

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu is in India, where he will make use of his invitation to the G20 summit to further Nigerian membership of the forum of the world's largest economies.


Image : Sajjad HUSSAIN/AFP

Nigeria is considering applying to become a member of the G20, a forum of the world’s largest economies, the president’s spokesman Ajuri Ngelale confirmed this week.

President Bola Tinubu, who is attending the G20 summit in Delhi following an invitation from India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, will use the opportunity to make progress on his goal of securing Nigerian membership, Ngelale said in a statement released by the Nigerian presidency.

However, he added that “while Nigeria’s membership of the G20 is desirable, the government has embarked on wide-ranging consultations with a view to ascertaining the benefits and risks of membership” in line with the president’s desire to “democratise foreign policy”.

President Tinubu was the first head of state to arrive in New Delhi for the summit on Tuesday. In addition to pursuing membership of the G20, he will hold bilateral meetings with other world leaders and make use of the opportunity to leverage foreign direct investment in Nigeria.

President Bola Tinbu flanked by security guards after descending from a Nigerian Air Force plane.
President Bola Tinubu arrives in New Delhi on 5 September. (Image: Ministry of External Affairs, India)

Towards a new era in Nigeria’s foreign relations

According to Teniola Tayo, principal advisor at Aloinett Advisors in Abuja, Nigeria’s interest in joining the G20 is another sign that the country is seeking to broaden the scope of its foreign and trade policy and look beyond the African continent.

“Nigeria’s foreign policy has historically been described as ‘Afrocentric’ but at a conference that launched a review of this policy last year, lawmakers debated that Nigeria ought to be looking more outwardly and engaging with global partners, versus focusing primarily on Africa,” Tayo tells African Business. “Joining the G20 will herald a new era in Nigeria’s external relations as it seeks to play a more significant part in global decision-making.

“While Nigerians are wary of a potential situation where the federal government prioritises external relations over domestic challenges, a more strategic navigation of global spaces such as the G20 can contribute to addressing the political and economic challenges within the country.”

Indeed, the Nigerian government has said that “with its collective contribution of up to 80% of global GDP, 75% of international trade, and housing 60% of the world’s population, the G20 constitutes a significant economic power bloc of socio-economic opportunity and geopolitical stability.”

Tayo believes that G20 membership and the influence that would bring could have “positive implications for the negotiation of trade and investment deals.”

Ngelale also said that Tinubu is attending the upcoming G20 summit in order to promote foreign investment in Nigeria and mobilise global capital for the development of the country’s infrastructure.

Nigeria may also seek to join BRICS

Nigeria’s bid to join the G20 comes at a time when the government in Abuja is also exploring the possibility of joining the expanding BRICS grouping of developing economies, although the West African nation is yet to apply for membership formally. BRICS is often seen as an alternative to Western-dominated international fora, such as the G20, with its members expressing the desire to rebalance the global geopolitical and economic scene to give emerging economies a fairer deal.

However, Tayo says that Nigeria does not need to choose “between a “Global South” led bloc or a “Western” led bloc.”

“I don’t think Nigerian policymakers recognise this dichotomy,” Tayo notes. “They have a mandate to engage in any or all spaces where the interests of the country can be advanced. The current government appears to have a more radical approach to Nigeria’s foreign policy engagements, but it is essential that these engagements are within a framework of a clear strategy to improve Nigeria’s place in the world.”

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Harry Clynch

Harry is Finance Reporter at African Business.