Nigeria is one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa on which Switzerland focuses its greatest efforts to safeguard its interests. Relations are good and close, encompassing not only economic matters but also high-level political meetings, institutionalised talks on human rights issues and a migration partnership.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Nigeria
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Relations between Switzerland and Nigeria concentrate on economic cooperation, migration issues and human rights. These themes are further developed at regular bilateral meetings.
Various political issues are discussed once a year in the framework of high-level political consultations. On these occasions the two countries coordinate both bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Talks on human rights also take place once a year.
In 2011, Switzerland and Nigeria concluded a migration partnership, which is a centrepiece of their relations. Together the two States have undertaken to promote the positive aspects of migration and to fight its negative sides.
For its part, Nigeria has accepted a readmission agreement, in which it agrees to take back Nigerian nationals who have entered Switzerland illegally. Technical cooperation between a wide range of authorities is expected to simplify this process.
In reciprocation, Switzerland supports returning Nigerians with return aid and vocational education and training projects. Through information campaigns Switzerland seeks to raise awareness among local Nigerians and to persuade them to remain in their country and not to travel illegally to Switzerland.
After South Africa, Nigeria is Switzerland’s second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria exports mainly crude oil, while Swiss exports primarily comprise machines, pharmaceuticals and other chemical products as well as textiles. Due to its oil imports, Switzerland has a very negative trade balance with Nigeria. Some 60 to70 Swiss firms are active in Nigeria, mainly in the south of the country. Swiss direct investments amount to about USD 300m, employing about 4,000 people.
An aviation agreement has been in force since 1980. In 2000, Switzerland and Nigeria concluded an agreement on the mutual protection and promotion of investments. In addition, since 1980s, the two countries have implemented several debt restructuring agreements in Nigeria’s favour.
Switzerland was the first country to return to Nigeria assets embezzled by the former dictator Sani Abacha and his family. The sum totalled USD 700m. The Swiss financial centre has an interest not to become a safe haven for illicitly acquired assets.
Cooperation in the domain of education
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.
Peace promotion and human security
Switzerland seeks to improve human security in Nigeria through various projects and interventions.
Cultural exchanges between Switzerland and Nigeria are modest. Switzerland participates in the Week of the Italian Language and in the Francophonie Weeks that take place every year in Abuja.
Swiss nationals in Nigeria
At the end of 2012, 263 Swiss citizens were living in Nigeria, most of them in Lagos.
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 the new capital Abuja and since 2004 has maintained an honorary consulate in Lagos.