Vast, vibrant Nigeria is one of the largest economies in sub-Saharan Africa. What happens in this country has the power to impact the entire region and continent. I recently returned from a three week trip to Embassy Abuja, where I assisted the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) teams managing U.S. foreign assistance in drafting and submitting their Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Operational Plan (OP). The OP is the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources’ tool that details how State Department embassies and USAID missions will use foreign assistance funds to achieve Administration and foreign policy priorities in a country in a given fiscal year. OP information also details how a country program will comply with congressional earmarks and directives—it serves as an agreement on the planned use of foreign assistance resources.
In Nigeria, the State Department and USAID managed approximately $470 million in bilateral foreign assistance in FY 2016, to support efforts to help stabilize the country and the region, and ultimately protect U.S. national security and prosperity. The programs supported by these funds promote our shared goals of security and counter-terrorism, economic prosperity, and good governance.
Nigeria’s unlimited potential faces immense challenges—extreme poverty and lack of economic opportunity breeds dissatisfaction in youth, an ongoing crisis leaves millions food insecure, various health challenges threaten Nigerians, and instability offers a foothold for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations in West Africa. As I worked with the different teams implementing foreign assistance on the FY 2017 OP for Nigeria, I saw how the U.S. is strategically investing in security, health, education, and many other sectors, and how these investments are intrinsically linked to our broader priority to counter terrorism and violent extremism in the region.
ISIS poses one of the most urgent threats to our national security, and U.S. foreign assistance is on the front lines in the fight to defeat this and other terrorist groups in Nigeria. Our activities are designed to prevent power vacuums where ISIS, Boko Haram, and other terrorist organizations can take hold, creating a state that provides requisite services to its citizens. We also provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the people of Nigeria, and our other programs support increasing productive agricultural activities, improving access to quality education and healthcare, promoting good governance, and building the capacity of military, civilian law enforcement, and anti-corruption agencies to enforce the rule of law.
As I worked on the FY 2017 OP for Nigeria, I was able to better understand the importance and efficacy of our foreign assistance in the country and see how this important process guides U.S. investments. These different activities help bolster U.S. national security, allow us to retain our position as a global leader and problem-solver, and work to help Nigeria reach its full potential.
About the Author: Ben Bryan is a Country Coordinator in the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.
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