Washington DC

The inaugural U.S.-based NDDF was held in Washington, DC on October 23, 2014 attracting more than 125 government, private sector and NGO representatives.

The key topics explored were:
  • Partnering to Grow Business in the Niger Delta
  • Exploring Collaboration for Development Research and Analysis
  • Access to Electricity in the Niger Delta
  • Collective Action for Peace and Security

Keynote speakers were Bisa Williams, deputy assistant secretary for West Africa, U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Ade Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. and Martin Fregene, senior technical advisor to the Nigerian minister of agriculture and rural development.

This partner-centric event included panelists from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the State Department, The Fund for Peace, Shell, SENTEL, DAI and USAID.

Summary Report

NDDF Washington, DC opening panel session. Photo: David SnyderNDDF Washington, DC opening panel session. Photo: David Snyder

“Partnerships have the power to transform the Niger Delta’s economy and civil society for the better,” was the systemic message that emerged in panel conversations and forum discussions at the recent Niger Delta Development Forum, held in Washington, D.C. on 23 October 2014.

The event was hosted by the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation (NDPI) and the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) in collaboration with its partners, including: The Atlantic Council Africa Center, The Brookings Institution Africa Growth Initiative, the Corporate Council on Africa, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Chevron Corporation, Fund for Peace, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business - Global Social Enterprise Initiative, the Kyle House Group and Partners for Peace in the Niger Delta(P4P).  The event brought together more than 125 Nigerian and U.S. stakeholders, representing a range of sectors; including public, private and civil society organizations. The purpose was to share information about approaches for equitable economic growth and stability in the Niger Delta and identify opportunities for partnership. As NDPI’s Executive Director, Dennis Flemming explained, “There’s a lot more common interest among us than most people realize. Once we open the doors for collaboration, we find there’s more to work on together.”

Bisa Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary for West AfricaBisa Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary for West Africa, U.S. Dept. of State speaking at NDDF Washington, DC. Photo: David SnyderPartnerships to improve economic development and livelihoods in the Niger Delta can take many forms. At its core, partnership is founded upon deep collaboration with communities across the nine Delta states to create stronger, market-driven businesses and to monitor and respond effectively to violent conflict that creates barriers to prosperity. In their remarks at the NDDF Washington, Ambassador Bisa Williams, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. State Department and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.S., Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, highlighted partnerships between the governments of the United States and Nigeria. During the forum breakout sessions, speakers and participants explored partnerships between businesses and donor agencies already working in the Niger Delta or seeking investment in the region.

NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Partnering to Grown Business in the Niger Delta.” NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Partnering to Grown Business in the Niger Delta.” (L-R) Amb. Robert Perry, VP, Corporate Council on Africa; Clay Neff, Chairman and Managing Director, Chevron Nigeria Ltd. And Uwa Igiehon, CEO, Greenpark Petrochemical. Photo: David SnyderBusiness opportunities that lead to self-sustaining job creation in the Delta often rely on grassroots economic capacity-building programs. For example, NDDF participants at one breakout session learned that Uwa Igiehon and his company, Greenpark Petrochemical, built a new cassava plantation and a nitrogen fertilizer production plant in Benin City, Edo State with the support of a loan from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Developing those enterprises, Igiehon said, required identifying shared goals between state government leaders and local workers.

NDDF speakers also noted that economic development can only be sustained in an environment of peace and security. According to Krista Hendry, Executive Director of the Fund for Peace, peace building in the Niger Delta requires a network of groups and individuals who monitor and execute effective responses.

Other key themes to emerge from the NDDF/Washington DC 2014:

Data and good information are critical to success. Participants discussed that a cornerstone for successful economic development projects in the Niger Delta is to begin with a value chain analysis of various commodities in order to understand how best to enlarge the role and capacity of farmers and businesses.

NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Exploring Collaboration for Development Research and Analysis.” NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Exploring Collaboration for Development Research and Analysis.” (L-R) Mwangi Kimenyi, Director, Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution; Christopher O’Connor, Assistant Program Officer, West Africa, National Endowment for Democracy and Ese Emerhi, Manager, Niger Delta Link. Photo: David SnyderChris O’Connor, Assistant Program Officer with the National Endowment for Democracy, noted that access to this kind of data has been a challenge. It required pressure from civil society organizations for Nigerian government to publicly release data that might affect agriculture or business conditions. PIND Foundation’s Ese Emerhi added that NDLink.org (an online communications platform that she manages) is a central hub for sharing data produced by researchers and development organizations working in the Niger Delta. Emerhi highlighted research projects conducted by PIND Foundation and the Brookings Institution in Washington that provided critical information to Niger Delta farmers about new agricultural techniques and changing commodity markets.

Security and economic development are two sides of the same coin. There was repeated acknowledgement at the forum that in order to improve Niger Delta livelihoods, it is essential to simultaneously focus on building peace and economic prosperity. “We can’t divorce security from economic issues,” said J. Peter Pham, Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

Krista Hendry of the Fund for Peace recommended peace builders examine how vested interests that perpetuate conflict in the Niger Delta have succeeded in developing such a stronghold across the region and apply the answer to that question toward creating peace. “They built strong networks with incentives at every level,” Hendry said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do now with a diverse range of actors across a variety of regions in the Delta.”

NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Collective Action for Peace and Security.” NDDF Washington, DC panel on “Collective Action for Peace and Security.” (L-R): Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director, African Center, Atlantic Council; Bronwyn Bruton, Deputy Director, African Center, Atlantic Council; Peter Lewis, Associate Professor and Director of the African Studies Program, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Col. Peter Aubry, Special Forces (ret.), Chief Executive, Strategic Opportunities International and Krista Hendry, Executive Director, Fund for Peace. Photo: David SnyderAgriculture has significant untapped economic potential. While oil and gas extraction have provided enormous boosts to the overall Nigerian economy, poverty levels remain stubbornly high. Many forum participants point out that the biggest driver of future prosperity is likely to be in the agricultural sector, where Nigeria has sufficient resources but a lack of know-how, technology, business management acumen and access to financing. The challenge is to build Nigerians’ ability to fully tap the potential of those recourses, for example, via cross sector partnerships.

Dr. Martin Fregene, special advisor to Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, stressed that the Niger Delta is fundamentally an agrarian society where more than 60 percent of inhabitants work in some aspect of agriculture. “The future of the Niger Delta should be found in agriculture,” Dr. Fregene said. “We are seeing today an agricultural renaissance.”

Success begets success. According to Sam Ogbemi Daibo, Executive Director of PIND, economic development and peace building projects will expand as Nigerians witness the success of such initiatives. For example, if a career in agriculture has traditionally been perceived as less lucrative and attractive than other sectors, advances in agriculture through value chain analysis pilot programs could change the minds of Niger Delta farmers, communities and businesses. “When you show people that farming is a money making business, people will pay attention,” Daibo said.