Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy. Poverty and conflict are widespread, and millions of children remain outside the school system.

Facts about Nigeria

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Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
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Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Nigeria has an active, dynamic business sector. The country is Norway’s largest training partner on the African continent with more than 50 Norwegian companies active there, particularly in the oil and gas, shipping and fisheries industries.

There are major class differences in Nigeria, and a large proportion of the population is unemployed.

Almost 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. However, business and industry in Nigeria offer significant opportunities.

The challenges that Nigeria faces are manifold. Among them are:

  • weak institutions
  • an agenda for political reform that faces strong opposition
  • corruption
  • large income inequalities
  • serious internal conflicts

Freedom of the press and freedom of assembly are well safeguarded, with some exceptions. The human rights situation in Nigeria is difficult. The judicial system is weak and many people are threatened by organised crime and violence.

Social rights are in a fragile position, particularly in the country’s northern regions. Many children receive no schooling and health services are poor.

Historic overview: Nigeria and Norwegian Development Cooperation

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Large export revenues from oil and gas have raised Nigeria to the status of a middle-income country, but a large proportion of the population live below the poverty line.

The country has been under military rule for long periods. However, Nigeria has had a civilian government since 1999. In 2015, the first ever transfer of presidential power to the opposition took place after the latter won the election.

Since 2009, the militant group Boko Haram, centred in the north-east, has carried out attacks on the authorities and civilians. Boko Haram, which may be translated as ‘Western education is a sin’, represents an extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism.

Norwegian development aid to Nigeria started under the auspices of Norwegian Church Aid in 1962. During the Biafran war from 1967 to 1970, Norway provided comprehensive emergency assistance. Since 2008, health, and especially projects for mothers and children, have formed an important part of Norwegian development aid to the country.  Norway also supports projects implemented by UNDP for peace and better governance. 

Security and the humanitarian situation

The security situation in Nigeria is fraught with numerous conflicts.

In the north-east, the army is fighting the militant group Boko Haram, whose aim is to impose Sharia law.

Boko Haram has been weakened and has carried out far fewer attacks in 2017. The group otherwise bases its activities on the use of suicide bombers. Boko Haram hides itself deep in the Sambisa Forest, which came under its control before Christmas in 2016.

As a result of the conflict with Boko Haram, almost 2.7 million people are internally displaced. Altogether 200.000 have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Niger and Cameroon. Many millions of people live from hand to mouth. This represents a huge potential for social unrest and migratory pressure.

The humanitarian situation in the north was adequately covered at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in February 2017. The UN Security Council visited the region a short time afterwards.


Nigeria entered an economic downturn as a result of the fall in oil prices in 2014. This is the first downturn in several decades. The country again showed economic growth in the second quarter of 2017.
Norway’s engagement in business and industry is significant, with more than 50 Norwegian companies active in the country.

Important export products from Norway are fish (mainly dried fish), ships, and commissions and deliveries for the oil industry. A Nigerian Norwegian Chamber of Commerce was established in 2016 to strengthen and facilitate greater engagement in business and industry and investments between the two countries.

A governmental growth plan to boost Nigeria’s economy, is expected to return Nigeria to economic growth of seven per cent and create 15 million new jobs by 2020. The plan emphasises a broadening of economic activity to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.

The electricity supply remains Nigeria’s economic Achilles heel. Lack of electricity restricts economic growth.

The country has ambitions with regard to agricultural development, mineral extraction, the refining industry and infrastructure.


Anti-corruption is one of the main priorities for Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari.

A number of court cases involving former politicians, civil servants and judges are being heard. However, it is difficult to achieve convictions.

Buhari’s choice of chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was blocked by the senate in 2017. Many people have referred to this as ‘corruption strikes back’.

Norwegian development cooperation with Nigeria

Nigeria is a middle-income country with considerable economic resources. Norway therefore has no state-to-state cooperation with Nigeria.

The development cooperation focuses on humanitarian assistance, education, climate-resilient agriculture and food security in the north-east (in 2017), and peace and reconciliation.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has sought to make provision for an improved system for humanitarian workers in dangerous regions. On the whole, according to the Norwegian Embassy in Abuja, there is now a more dynamic UN response to the humanitarian crisis in the north-east.

The Norwegian Embassy cooperates closely with UNICEF. The cooperation includes education and promoting protection of women against violence in the conflict in the north-east, as well as the rights and social participation of vulnerable women.

Before Christmas 2016, the World Food Programme (WFP) accelerated its efforts for food security in Nigeria. It was thereby able to lift the burden of the food distribution programmes from the International Red Cross (ICRC). Despite zealous efforts and a long-term presence, the Red Cross did not have the capacity to deal with the crisis alone.

Climate-resilient agriculture

In 2017, the Norwegian Embassy signed an agreement with the FAO on agricultural development in the arid regions of north-east Nigeria.

Due to many years of conflict with Boko Haram, some areas are still inaccessible for farmers. The agreement is therefore more directly combined with food security through the WFP.


The education sector in the north-east has been severely affected by the conflict with Boko Haram. Both students and teachers have been killed and schools destroyed. The result is large numbers of refugees and several hundred thousand children outside the school system.

It is estimated that 1200 schools have been destroyed. Most have still not been rebuilt, so the needs are immense.

Since 2015, the Embassy has supported UNICEF’s Safe Schools Initiative. This project is now being scaled up significantly in order to provide more children with schooling. A new, three-year agreement with a framework of NOK 75 million was signed in October 2016.

The support to safe schools through UNICEF was evaluated by the organisation Education Trust in 2016, engaged by Norad. The review concluded that the programme has largely achieved its objectives. It shows that more than 263.000 children, 47 per cent of whom are girls, received teaching as part of the safe schools initiative. Many of them had never attended school before.

Democracy, human rights and good governance

The Norwegian Embassy is supporting a three-year agreement with UNICEF (2016-2018) to promote the protection of women and children against violence in the north-east Nigeria conflict. It also promotes the rights and social participation of vulnerable women. The support disbursed in 2016 amounted to NOK 5 million.

The Norwegian Embassy supported UNDP’s country programme from 2014 to 2016, which principally emphasised peaceful conflict resolution, including occupational training, responsible governance and human rights.  The support disbursed in 2016 amounted to NOK 6 million.

Cooperation in the fisheries sector  

The Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research received NOK 1 million for institutional training. The training programme is based on experiences with the Nansen programme, a Norwegian programme for fisheries research and management in developing countries.

Read more about the development cooperation through

Non-governmental organisations in Nigeria

The Norwegian Refugee Council has a presence in the north-east in relation to the humanitarian crisis, and has significantly increased its activities in the last year.

The thematic areas fall within the Norwegian Refugee Council’s special competence, such as

  • food and shelter
  • water
  • food security
  • legal advice
  • to some degree, education.

The organisation receives high praise in humanitarian circles in Abuja and in Borno State. 

Other Norwegian organisations that receive development aid funding for Nigeria

  • The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature/Friends of the Earth Norway
  • Norcode - The Norwegian Copyright Development Association
  • The Norwegian Red Cross
  • INTSOK (now Norwep)
  • Save the Children
  • Norwegian Church Aid
  • Caritas
Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 05.02.2019