Message from the Chairman
As 2020 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on what has been a productive but challenging year for the U.S.-Nigeria Council (USNC), and for U.S.-Nigeria relations more broadly.
The year opened with U.S. President Donald Trump adding Nigeria and five other countries to his controversial travel ban, complicating bilateral relations and preventing Nigerian citizens from obtaining certain types of U.S. visas. Relations further soured in September, when Nigeria featured among the 59 countries for which the Trump administration proposed a new rule to limit student visas to just two years. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to revoke Trump’s travel bans on day one, but they could have lasting implications for international enrollment at U.S. tertiary institutions.
The coronavirus pandemic also tested the U.S.-Nigeria relationship, overwhelming health systems in both countries in a matter of weeks. The United States has long been the unofficial epicenter of the virus, accounting for about one quarter of global cases. Nigeria, too, has struggled hugely, recording stubbornly low testing rates in the early months of the pandemic. Nigeria’s economy is forecast to contract by about 4% this year, and the Central Bank has been forced to devalue the naira four times. Despite this gloomy economic news, I was gratified to see that the private sector – including many USNC members – have risen to the occasion, making substantial contributions to the Coalition Against COVID-19 and supporting the government’s health and economic relief efforts.
In September, we featured a few of these members in a virtual event with Vice President of Nigeria His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Focusing on healthtech, the Vice President highlighted the leading role the sector will continue to play in Nigeria’s relief efforts, lauding some of our members for helping the Nigerian government to deliver social programs to its people during the pandemic. Earlier in the year, we also hosted Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment His Excellency Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo for a members’ roundtable on U.S.-Nigeria relations during COVID-19, where the Honorable Minister stressed the importance of leveraging digital tools and technologies to reinvigorate Nigeria’s economy.
Protests against police brutality were another common thread in both countries throughout 2020, with #BlackLivesMatter protests gripping much of the world following George Floyd’s death in the United States and the #EndSARS movement similarly eliciting global support and sympathy. The remarkable ingenuity and determination of Nigerians young and old – especially women – to organize against police brutality in the face of tremendous adversity has been inspiring, and we look forward to supporting the principles of the movement from afar in 2021.
The USNC continued to be a go-to resource for information and analysis on the U.S.-Nigeria commercial relationship in 2020. Earlier this month, we hosted senior officials from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation for a members’ briefing on DFC’s investment priorities in Nigeria. Earlier in the year, we published a digital economy guide, offering an assessment of Nigeria’s expanding and entrepreneurial digital ecosystem and highlighting some of the most accomplished and exciting entrants into Nigeria’s digital space. We look forward to similar publications and briefings with key officials in the Biden administration in 2021.
I would like to express my appreciation to the USNC’s members for their support throughout the year. Special thanks also to USNC Honorary Co-Chairs John Coumantaros and Ambassador John Negroponte, Country Director Kelechi Ekugo, Senior Advisor Aubrey Hruby, and Director of Operations Jonathan Gass for their work throughout the year. With every good wish to you and yours this holiday season, I look forward to engaging with you in the new year.
Ambassador (ret.) Terence P. McCulley
Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria (2010-2013);
Chairman, U.S. Nigeria Council
Regionally in-tune, the Council’s work actively supports Nigeria’s national strategy for economic prosperity and US commercial diplomacy. With the support of key Nigerian political and economic institutions including the Nigerian Sovereign Trust Fund, the Council helps to advance critical trade and investment initiatives by maximizing industrial free trade zones, diversifying exports, integrating agro-investments into global supply chains, and matching energy development to production needs.