The vote in Nigeria between outsiders and old fears Thats

The vote in Nigeria between outsiders and old fears: That’s why the future of the African country is also about Italy open

Today, February 25, the afterlife 90 million of the registered voters of the Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy by GDP, voted to elect the next president and renew parliament. Although – writes Bloomberg – votes in many polling stations in Nigeria have been delayed by several hours, the independent National Electoral Commission plans to “announce this winner of the polls up to February 27″. Whoever manages to get the most votes will inherit a country facing “major economic and social challenges with the ongoing financial crisis, high inflation, a problematic labor market,” he tells Open Lucy boys, researcher for ISPI’s Africa program. But that’s not all: the country will also have to contend with an increase in violence and internal conflicts, which will be exacerbated by an ethnically fragmented society. “The main problems concern corruption, the now endemic insecurity due to extremists and ethnic problems in the control and exploitation of the territory’s resources, but also the inattention to young people,” he explains instead Antonella SinopolisDirector of Voci Globali based in Ghana and correspondent for Nigrizia.

Who are the post-Buhari candidates?

In the fight for the after Muhammadu Buharithose unable to stand for election are doing well, having fulfilled the two mandates permitted by the constitution 18 candidates. According to polls, only three really have a chance of winning. This is the 70 year old Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria, member of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party; the 76 year old Atiku Abubakar, prominent businessman and former civil servant, candidate of the main opposition party People’s Democratic Party (PDP). And finally, the underdog of this election: Peter Obi, exponent of the Labor Party, which aims to undermine the two-party balance that has existed since the birth of the (fledgling) Nigerian democracy in 1999. To become president of one of Africa’s economically and geopolitically most important countries, one of the three must receive the most votes nationally and more than 25% of the votes in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. If nobody makes it, the second round will take place on March 11th. “There are several peculiarities in these elections – he explains Lucy boys of Ispi – in general, the elections in Nigeria were fought between two candidates: the peculiarity this time is the entry of a third party into the competition, that of Obi, who is a candidate who breaks with the others and who, according to some polls, could too WIN».

It is also a European issue

The implications of the future economic, social and democratic stability of Africa’s leading economy “will inevitably have repercussions outside the continent,” Ragazzi says. “The demographic and economic colossus is a point of reference for international markets” and world observers have Nigeria in their sights because of its geopolitical influence, but above all because of its size energy resources coveted in a context of tremendous uncertainty. “Europe, including Italy, needs Nigerian resources more than ever: we saw that with the war in Ukraine,” he explains Sinopolis. “But they also need – he continues – for this country to get out of the grip of violence and insecurity. Because in the end, destabilization does no one any good.”

Relations between the European Union and Nigeria – although “they started in 1975, when it was still the EEC, with the Lomé Convention,” explains Antonella Sinopoli – “have become closer since then 1999, with the democratization of the country”, ending 16 consecutive years of military rule. “Today, for example – he continues – the European Commission has a program running that started in 2021 and will end in 2024 with an investment in Nigeria 508 Millions of euros in the field of sustainable economy, governance and human development to combat inequalities”. However, Nigeria is not a country that has not repaid anything. “Let’s think of the many natural resources,” says Sinopoli, especially the oil. “The EU – he explains – has become the largest importer of crude oil, but above all of gas: in this case we are talking about 80% from the African country”.

The Unknown Oil

Nigeria is the leading oil producer in Africa and has a production potential of approx 2 million barrels per day. This number has decreased significantly over the years to reach figures ranging from to 1.2 millions to 1.3. Over the past year, however, the African giant has failed to capitalize on the rise in crude oil prices and failed to meet production quotas allocated by the Association of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The consequences of this situation lie both in the lack of modernization of the infrastructures and as a result of the so-called theft of fuel, which is resold on semi-secret markets and poses a problem for world supplies, which is further plunged into crisis by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But that’s not all: Nigeria is unable to refine its own oil to produce fuel and thus fully exploit the immense wealth of its territory. All of this in no way encourages investments by multinational companies in the country, which are useful – if not essential – to ensure the growth of national revenues. Finally, the future of the Abuja government is under the eyes of European observers, even after the approval of the memorandum of understanding – signed on September 15 – regarding the “Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project” that will supply West Africa and Europe the – inevitably – the will determine the agenda of the new presidency.

It’s Italy?

“Italy, for its part, has the same convenience and needs compared to this country,” says Sinopoli. «The Italian Commercial Agency (Agency for the promotion abroad and the internationalization of Italian companies, ed.) operates here». The trade relations are “very strong and extensive”. In fact, after South Africa, Nigeria is Italy’s most important trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa: “We export furniture, building materials and technology. Let’s just think that according to the United Nations Comtrade database on international trade, exports from Italy were estimated 1.89 Billion dollars. It’s a number that dates back to 2018 but gives a good idea ». And then: “Let’s think about themEni: Your presence in the country dates back to 1962. Recently, the major oil company signed new exploration and production agreements for LNG (liquefied natural gas, editor’s note), while oil production never stopped». Just think of the €8 billion deal signed between Italy and Libya with the aim of increasing gas production to both meet domestic demand and ensure exports to Europe. But whoever wins the presidential elections “will – Sinopoli is convinced – not change the economic and partnership agreements, the interests are closely linked and mutual” and would therefore not be in the interests of either party.

“No Country for Old Men”

But aside from the economic reasons, Italy and all of Europe in general “should be paying close attention to what is happening in Nigeria because of that youth population»who are very often forced to migrate due to the destabilizing economic and social environment. In 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world: the median age is 18 years and 70% of the population is under 30 years old. “The country therefore has – explains Sinopoli – one of the youngest populations on a global scale and this must represent an opportunity” for all of Europe. “Let’s think, for example, of the many start-ups that have been created in recent years, of the artistic, cinematic and literary panorama”. However, the reality of this country so “unknown” to most is quite disheartening, and in some ways the younger electorate has been hardest hit by the failings of the outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari. “According to the latest data, there are about 90 million unemployed young people in Nigeria.”

So what will these young people do? Where will all this energy go? “If they are not focused on building the future of the country, there are not many alternatives,” he tells Open Sinopoli: “In addition to increasing the number of poor and desperate population (more than 40% still live below the poverty line) , they could join one of the jihadist groups that have taken over some areas of the country in recent years; above all, they could be forced to do so emigrate». Nigeria is the country of origin of the major diaspora Africans: Nigerians are the most numerous African groups living in the European Union, including Italy. But that’s not all: “Nigeria – explains Ispi’s Lucia Ragazzi – is also the first stratum of sub-Saharan Africa from which migrants arrive irregular towards the EU”.

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