Innovation and Nigeria’s leading position in Africa: prospects and challenges

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Post-graduate student (Innovation Management)
Affiliation: RUDN University, Russia
Address: Russian Federation
Occupation: Post-graduate student (International Relations)
Affiliation: RUDN University, Russia
Address: Russian Federation
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 6

The end of the Cold War heralded twists and turns in international political systems with a shift from the US-led unipolar system to new world orders emanating from different regions of the global community. The US lackluster zeal and sometimes lack of capacity in tackling major global challenges has reciprocally induced the proliferation of a range of regional actors like China, Brazil, Russia, European Union (EU), Nigeria and South Africa. Expectedly, there is a high level of responsibility to provide the right leadership framework to foster regional and international stability and stimulate growth and development in these regions and the entire international system.

In view of the above, this article analyzes Nigeria’s hegemonic position in Africa, putting into context Nigeria’s economic size and influence, the immensity of Nigeria’s population, the abundance of mineral deposits, especially crude oil and natural gas reserves, and military capabilities. The study examines the power dynamics of the African continent with insights from Nigeria’s foreign policy. Also included in the study is the critical examination of Nigeria’s perceived hegemonic influence in Africa using hegemonic stability theory influence as a theoretical framework.

The paper further argues that although Nigeria has great potentials in innovation and science diplomacy, its innovation capabilities lack the necessary components needed for continental hegemonic disposition, considering the fact that there is not enough empirical evidence to indicate that it contextually suits the African continent. Nigeria’s approach towards science and diplomacy is being influenced by its past, present and future projections as well as its local and external environment. 

KeywordsNigeria, hegemonic stability theory, regional hegemon, regional power, innovation, foreign policy
Publication date31.05.2019
Number of characters14855
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The end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall led to a shift from the US-led unipolar world order to a range of regional powers across the globe. Countries like China, Brazil, India, Russia, Iran, South Africa and Nigeria became regional powers, and the European Union - a power bloc. These changes have contextually led to an interest in research to understand the influence and limitations of these powers and their roles in international systems [1; 3].


The new powers predictably were imposed with greater responsibilities to advance the right momentum and leadership orchestration needed to stimulate international stability and foster growth and development in their respective regions. The heightening disinclination and increasing paucity of concern to interfere in civil, political and security matters in Africa and other developing countries have further put enormous pressure on these regional powers. This means the regional actors are at the forefront addressing vital socio-economic issues to achieve political stability in the regions.


Nigeria being the ‘giant’ of Africa because of its abundance of human and material resources has always been saddled with the leadership role in the continent. But Nigeria’s ability to assume this vital position has always been challenged because of its poor human development indicators, civil unrest in some parts of the country and economic disparity, reliance on foreign ‘super’ powers, among others. Some scholars have argued that South Africa is better placed to be the powerhouse of Africa than Nigeria because of its better economy and stronger military power since these indicators are significant when assuming leadership position [4; 6].


Furthermore, this study comparatively interrogates Nigeria leadership capabilities putting into context its prospects and challenges in innovation and science diplomacy. For further elaboration on this argument the study will critically analyze the concept of structural power and hegemony in a regional context, and also consider some notions on the effect this situation has for Nigeria and the continent.



According to some of the main exponents of the concept of structural power and regional hegemony, structural power, in short, bestows the power to influence how things shall be done, the capacity to configure frameworks within which states relate with one another, relate to people or relation to corporate enterprises [7; 13]. The comparative power of each state or party is more, or less, if one state or party is also influencing the surrounding frameworks of the relationship.


Scholars in their quest to distinguish between leadership and dominion and describing ‘consensual hegemony’ as a form of leadership rather than dominion prioritized the significance of ideas vital to the hegemonic project [6; 8; 15]. These prepositions comprise of elements that make the constituent state to have a feel of the system being in their favour since the hegemonic state seemingly acts with the consent of the other states to make the system functional. In the process, the hegemon as part of its responsibility devotes resources needed to sustain the project - security, economic and intellectual.


It can be argued that Nigeria has assumed most of these responsibilities on the continent of Africa consensually with a varying range of success and some degree of setbacks [4; 9]. Full compliance is not always expected in relations between states and constant intervention is also not needed by structural power to enforce states compliance on every issue. The focal point is that the hegemon often times is selective, reluctant in intervention and act based on the perception on the level of necessity [7]. As a fundamental prerequisite for exercising power, the hegemon possesses the ability to provide the needed material and idealistic resources to influence the states or institution within the system to do the bidding of the hegemon consensually. 


Most regional hegemons are second-tier and as a result are subsumed under a ‘superior’ power and sometimes encounter counter-hegemonic struggles in the form of regional animosities or conflict of global order based on difference of interest or conception [4; 23]. The US remains unchallenged at the top of the pyramid of power and authority since after the end of the Cold War and has used its influence to seek the cooperation of other regional players to maintain order and stability in the global system [22; 24]. Nigeria, although branded a second-tier hegemon by some analysts, has always been an ally of the US and has partnered with the US and other Western allies through the necessary frameworks to maintain the US-led unilateral world order. 



Foreign policy can be regarded as preconceived clear-sighted sovereign state’s national objectives being achieved through specific actions and roles in relation to external affairs. Simply put; it is the relationship between states in the international system [9; 15; 16]. Foreign Policy and National Interest are inextricable in external relations. For Nigeria, the cornerstone of its foreign policy is its national interest; the Nigerian state’s principal interest in pursuit of its foreign policy is the promotion of its national interest [1; 5].

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