benmetz.org

October 6, 2009

Social Economy 101 – Nigeria

Filed under: social economy 101 — benmetz @ 7:21 pm

This is part six of my social economy 101 series, looking at Nigeria.  I’ll be slowing these down from now on as the project I was working on that generated these is almost over.  But it’d be great to keep building snapshots of social economies around the world.  So drop me a line if you have an interesting relevant information source you would like me to link to or that we could work on to turn into an additional posting…

Social economy development in Nigeria.

Significant formalised third sector activity in Nigeria can be traced back to the 1990’s, crystallising initially around issues related to human rights and in response to the military regime and a series of coups, abortive coups and promises of return to democratic rule during the early 1990’s.  Previous to this rise in activity there had been a strong but informal third sector stretching back many decades.

Third sector activity can be traced back to the 1940’s and 1950’s.  The essentially communal and tribal nature of society meant, and still means, much of Nigeria’s social development is centred around individual philanthropy at a clan or tribe level.  Conversations with Nigerian third sector practitioners point to a strong but undocumented culture of giving at this local, tribal level.

From the 40’s right up to the 70’s, and the first wave of the oil boom, one of the main conduits for third sector and social development activity were local development unions, where individuals would contribute pro rata according to ability into charitable vehicles aligned with tribal, clan and geographic cultural and community groupings.  This approach began to fall apart with the rise in oil revenues and the impact this had on people’s relationship with money and community.

Due to the military regime ruling the country from 1966 until 1999, with the exception of the large international multilateral aid agencies and these local development unions, very little third sector activity occurred.

After the return to democracy in 1999 the third sector went into what can be described as a boom period.  Increased international aid flows combined with a civilian government laying down the most basic of enabling infrastructure saw significant funding find its way into areas such as employment creation and HIV-AIDS treatment and prevention.  However with much of this funding coming from multilateral and international aid agencies a culture of running after the funding developed.

The last ten years has seen a slow but steady increase in charitable activity across Nigeria with an increased focus on economic development and poverty alleviation developing over the last five years.  Part of this focus has seen an interest growing in support for individuals and communities to set up micro-enterprises.  However very little activity that could be described as social enterprise – trading for social or environmental benefit – has begun to develop yet, although the emerging focus on enterprise may be an indicator of things to come.

It is clear that the sector in Nigeria is incredibly immature but growing and only just starting to consider looking at issues of professionalisation, quality, transparency and governance.  Thus the prerequisites for a healthy third sector and social economy cannot yet be said to be in place.

It is notable that no data or statistics exist, nationally or regionally, on the size and characteristics of the third or charitable sector.  Registration of not for profit organisations is fragmented locally, regionally and nationally and no central depositary of registrations, or indeed of data gathering, exists.

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