As a political and economic heavyweight, Nigeria is a key partner for Switzerland in sub-Saharan Africa. The two countries maintain close relations underpinned by high-level political meetings and regular dialogue on economic and trade issues, migration, humanitarian aid, human rights and peacebuilding.
Bilateral Relations Switzerland–Nigeria
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Nigeria are close and wide-ranging, focusing on economic cooperation, migration issues, humanitarian aid, human rights and peacebuilding.
These issues are discussed in greater depth at regular high-level bilateral meetings. The most recent visits by a Federal Councillor to Nigeria took place in 2016 (Didier Burkhalter) and in 2018 (Johann Schneider-Ammann). Once a year, the two countries hold political consultations, a migration dialogue and a human rights dialogue.
Relations with Nigeria are to be further diversified and strengthened within the framework of Switzerland's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy 2021–24.
Nigeria is a major trading partner for Switzerland in Africa. Nigeria primarily exports crude oil to Switzerland, while Switzerland mainly exports pharmaceutical products and machinery to Nigeria. The high volume of oil imports has resulted in a very negative Swiss trade balance with Nigeria. Over 50 Swiss companies have operations in Nigeria, mainly in the south of the country. These companies have made direct investments amounting to approximately USD 550 million and employ more than 7,000 people.
In 1980, Switzerland and Nigeria concluded an air transport agreement and in 2000 an agreement on the mutual protection and promotion of investments. Furthermore, several debt restructuring agreements have been implemented since the 1980s to ease Nigeria's debt burden.
To strengthen cooperation on mutual assistance in criminal matters, Switzerland and Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 which provides the possibility for direct contacts and exchanges between the two countries' central authorities.
Switzerland and Nigeria also cooperate on asset recovery. By 2005, Switzerland had returned USD 700 million worth of assets to Nigeria which had been illicitly acquired by former dictator Sani Abacha. Indeed, Switzerland was the first country to return such assets to Nigeria. Since 2017, Switzerland has returned a further USD 321 million to Nigeria as part of a second asset recovery process. These funds are being channelled into projects to strengthen social safety net programmes serving the poorest sections of the population.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers and artists from Nigeria may apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
The migration partnership promotes projects that enable Nigerians to obtain training in specific professions.
The migration partnership concluded in 2011 is a centrepiece of bilateral relations. The partnership addresses both the challenges and benefits of migration and strengthens coordinated, comprehensive and coherent cooperation on migration-related issues, taking the interests of both countries and migrants into account.
The annual migration dialogue promotes exchange of views and addresses the issue of the repatriation of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. The migration partnership also implements joint projects, relating, for example, to combating human trafficking, migration management and the repatriation and reintegration of Nigerian nationals.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland and Nigeria have been engaged in an annual human rights dialogue since 2011. This bilateral exchange is complemented by specific projects in a variety of areas, including human rights, policing and access to justice, which are implemented in collaboration with the Nigerian authorities and civil society organisations.
Switzerland's peacebuilding activities in Nigeria are mostly concentrated in the north-east of the country and include good offices, dealing with the past, the prevention of ideologically motivated violent extremism and electoral assistance.
Since 2014, Switzerland has provided humanitarian aid to communities affected by the armed conflict in the Lake Chad region. It also provides funding to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations and various international NGOs, with a special focus on food security, protection of the civilian population and education in emergency situations.
The level of cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Nigeria is low. Switzerland takes part in the the 'Settimana della lingua italiana' and the 'Francophonie week' which are held annually in Abuja.
Swiss nationals in Nigeria
At the end of 2019, there were 222 Swiss nationals living in Nigeria.
History of bilateral relations
Switzerland recognised the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 1 October 1960, the day it gained independence from the United Kingdom. The two countries established diplomatic relations shortly afterwards, and Switzerland opened an embassy in Lagos a year later.
In 2001, Switzerland transferred its embassy to Nigeria's new capital, Abuja. In 2016, Switzerland also opened a consulate general in Lagos.