Nigeria is home to one in every five Africans and it has the continent’s largest economy. More than half of Nigerians are under 20 years old. Whether all these bright young people will drive growth or generate instability depends largely on whether Nigeria’s economy can produce jobs for them. And Nigeria won’t be able to create jobs at the required pace until it solves its energy crisis.
By 2045, Nigeria will be more populous than the United States, but the entire country currently produces less than one percent as much electricity. A low-energy future—in which a youth bulge meets an underpowered economy that cannot create jobs—would be a security nightmare for both Nigeria and the United States. Many have proposed that Nigeria address this problem by circumventing the complex structural problems with the country’s electricity chain and going small. Some representatives from the United Nations, the international financial community, and philanthropy have advocated for countries like Nigeria to solve their energy shortfalls by investing in small-scale, renewable home systems. Although these systems are attractive, they won’t bring Nigeria’s economy—or its youth—into the future.
Nigeria needs a high-energy grid system to power its factories and cities and to sustain a growing economy. The United States should partner with Nigeria to build such a system, which would stabilize one of Washington’s most important allies by helping it meet the economic needs and aspirations of its ballooning population.
A Critical Ally
Nigeria is the United States’ most important ally in sub-Saharan Africa. Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump all hosted the Nigerian head of state in the Oval Office—a distinction granted to no other African country. U.S. engagement with Nigeria has remained consistent and bipartisan in part because Nigeria is the linchpin to peace and prosperity in the broader region. The U.S. National Intelligence Council released a report in 2005 that warned that a failed Nigeria “would drag down a large part of the West African region.”
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