Since the inauguration of President Obasanjo (in office from 1999 to 2007), Nigeria’s first elected head of state following the end of military rule in May 1999, bilateral relations have regained momentum. Obasanjo’s successors, President Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010) and Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015), likewise sought to develop close relations with Germany. The first visit Nigeria’s newly elected President Buhari made to a non-African country after taking office took him to Germany, where he attended the G7 summit in Elmau on 7 and 8 June 2015. For the Federal Government, Nigeria is an important partner in Africa with great economic potential and a prominent role to play in promoting stability and democracy on the continent.
Federal Chancellor Merkel visited Abuja in July 2011, the first visit to Nigeria by a non-African head of government following President Jonathan’s election in April 2011. In the course of their talks, it was agreed to set up a Bi-National Commission to develop and intensify relations. The Bi-National Commission’s Working Groups on Political Consultation, Economic Relations, Power and Energy, and Culture, Education and Migration commenced work on the occasion of President Jonathan’s visit to Berlin on 19 and 20 April 2012. The Binational Commission’s first plenary session was held during Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s visit to Abuja on 2 November 2012. The second plenary session was held in Berlin on 21 October 2014 and was presided over by Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Nigerian counterpart Aminu Wali. Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Nigeria on 27 October 2014 together with his French counterpart Fabius.
From February 8th to February 12th, Federal President Gauck undertook an official visit to Nigeria, travelling to Lagos and Abuja. It was the first visit of a Federal President since 2008.
Besides developing relations between the two countries, including trade, bilateral talks are mostly concerned with the domestic situation in Nigeria (in particular with the growing number of attacks by Boko Haram) and multilateral issues, notably security and development in Africa, as well as questions relating to the African Union, the West African regional organisation ECOWAS and the United Nations.
One priority area of economic relations is cooperation in the energy sector. In August 2008, the founding document of the German-Nigerian Energy Partnership was signed in Abuja. The Energy Partnership was extended for another five years in October 2013. The two sides meet regularly to promote joint projects. The focus is on the rehabilitation and further development of electricity production in Nigeria – especially by means of renewable energy and improved energy efficiency – and greater involvement of German companies in developing energy sources in Nigeria.
But in other sectors, too, interest among entrepreneurs is growing on both sides. This is evidenced not least by the German-Nigerian Business Forums, which are held alternately in Germany and Nigeria and organised by the German-African Business Association and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) or by the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria and the Nigerian-German Business Association.
German companies participated in the third European Business Forum, which was held in Lagos in September 2014. The fourth is scheduled for November 2015, again in Lagos.
Nigeria is Germany’s second most important trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2014, German imports from Nigeria were worth EUR 3.95 billion, while German exports to Nigeria were worth EUR 1.39 billion. Germany’s main exports to Nigeria are machinery, motor vehicles, chemical products and electrical goods. Germany ranks ninth among Nigeria’s export destinations and tenth among suppliers of Nigerian imports.
A large number of German companies are active in Nigeria, operating either with their own offices or through partners. An agreement on reciprocal investment protection and promotion was signed in 2000 and has been in force in September 2007.
There is a Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria, which is based in Lagos and was set up by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK). German and local businesspeople have also joined forces to form the Nigerian-German Business Association (NGBA) with the aim of stepping up bilateral economic relations. The DIHK and the NGBA work together closely, both spatially and substantively, with the declared aim of setting up a German-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce.
The priority area in German development cooperation with Nigeria is promoting sustainable economic development with a focus on small and medium-sized companies. There is also a consulting programme on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Through its Financial Cooperation, the Federal Government is also helping to fight polio in northern Nigeria. A programme to provide financial support to smallholders is designed to improve their market opportunities. Through funding provided by the KfW Development Bank, Germany is also making an important contribution to establishing Nigeria’s National Development Bank.
Since development cooperation with Nigeria began, Germany has pledged funds worth a total of some EUR 600 million, approximately two-thirds under Financial Cooperation and one-third under Technical Cooperation.
The good relations between Germany and Nigeria are also reflected in the cultural sphere. A bilateral cultural agreement was signed in 1999, placing cultural relations between the two countries on a sound footing under international law.
Since 1962, the Goethe Institute of Nigeria in Lagos has been an important address for cultural activities of all kinds. There is a very keen – and constantly growing – interest in its cultural programmes and in learning German. Many Nigerians are interested in Germany and, after completing language courses, hope to study here.
In Abuja, a private German company runs a German School offering instruction according to German curricula and awarding German secondary school-leaving certificates (Hauptschule and Realschule) recognised by the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the German Länder.
Of Germany’s political foundations, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Heinrich Böll Foundation have offices in Nigeria. With their different programmes, all these foundations promote democratisation, the development of free and independent media, women’s rights and the strengthening of civil society in Nigeria. The work of the Heinrich Böll Foundation also focuses on environmental issues.
In higher education, there is – despite the difficult situation at many universities in Nigeria – wide-ranging cooperation between German and Nigerian universities and colleges. The number of university partnerships is on the increase. A partnership between the University of Würzburg and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria was launched in 2012. The partnership between the University of Würzburg and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was revitalised in 2013.
German universities are very highly regarded in Nigeria. Many Nigerians now in leading positions in industry, the civil service and academic life studied in Germany during the economic boom days of the 1970s. There are several exchange programmes between the two countries, with 520 Nigerians currently studying in Germany.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has academic teachers working at the Universities of Ibadan and Ile-Ife. There are German Studies departments at the universities in Nsukka, Ile-Ife and Ibadan. German instruction is offered at several universities in the south of the country, including those in Benin City, Port Harcourt, Abakaliki and Awka, and in the north of the country at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and at the University of Jos. The number of German learners in Nigeria is constantly growing.There are also several private language schools in Nigeria (in Abuja and Port Harcourt) at which German is taught.
Academic cooperation also takes place in several alumni follow-up programmes run by the DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which provide active support for their former students through scholarships or donations of material and equipment. Many other alumni are members of organisations such as the German Alumni Association Nigeria (GAAN) or the Nigerian Association of Teachers of German (NATOG). Individual associations organise annual meetings, workshops and seminars.
In addition, there are a number of cultural cooperation projects. For example, the German Embassy supports a European Film Festival in cooperation with other European embassies (EU member states and Switzerland). An intensive visitor programme enables numerous Nigerian journalists to gain first-hand experience of Germany. Internships give journalists the opportunity to improve and hone their professional skills and qualifications.
The two sides are also working to further develop relations between the German and Nigerian media.
Another element of bilateral cultural relations is the dialogue with the Muslim culture of northern Nigeria.
In the media sector, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has a highly successful cooperation programme with various Nigerian radio and television stations, providing them with training and equipment. Deutsche Welle’s English-language and Hausa services are both very popular in Nigeria.
Last updated in February 2016.