UJ Institute for the Future of Knowledge

Nigeria’s Democracy Promotion in Africa: Hard, Soft or Smart Power Stratagem?

Journal of Asian and African Studies
Volume 57, 2022 – Issue 6


Democracy promotion is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most important foreign policy objectives in Africa. Indeed, it has featured in the state’s foreign policy across successive administrations including military and civilian regimes. A fundamental question explored by this article is the dimension of power Nigeria deploys in its foreign policy objective of democracy promotion in Africa. Is it hard or soft, or a combination of the two (smart power)? Using three case studies – Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and The Gambia – the article reveals that Nigeria has deployed all three dimensions of power. While this reflects the peculiar circumstances of these particular states in constitutional crisis, Nigeria’s domestic situation, including the type of political system (democratic or authoritarian) and the personality of the president at a given time, as well as trends in the global arena, are also germane. By its very nature, democracy promotion depends on a state’s soft power as the admirable domestic values of the soft power state attract other states to emulate its democratic practices. However, as the case study of Nigeria shows, a state can deploy soft, hard or smart power in its quest to promote democracy depending on the domestic circumstances of both the soft power and recipient states.

Oluwaseun Tella

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