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Nigeria’ Development: Modernization and Dependency Theories Case Study


This report is aimed at examining the social and economic development of Nigeria. In particular, it is necessary to look at this country from the perspective of modernization and dependency theories which can throw light on various changes in the former colonial countries. This state has been chosen because it illustrates the barriers that a developing economy has to overcome. Among them, one can distinguish such issues as corruption, lack of long-term policies, and slow adoption of new technologies (Botchway, 2011, p. 37). However, at the same time, Nigeria can be viewed as a state that does attempt to implement the principles of modernization theory in order to attain sustainable growth. In the course of this process, it has to overcome such obstacles as absence of well-developed educational system, low productivity, and the legacies of colonial and military rule. These are the main issues that should be examined in greater detail.

The use of modernization concepts

Overall, it is possible to argue that the country could not properly apply various concepts of modernization. The supporters of modernization theory often use such notions as innovation, increased productivity, and human development since they are critical for bringing social and economic changes (Wang, 2009). One should bear in mind that Nigeria has significant reserves of fossil fuels, namely oil and gas (Offu, 2013, p. 39). In turn, the presence of these reserves can be perceived as a positive factor that can contribute to the socio-economic development of this nation. At present, there is a widely-held belief among economists that this state did not make full use of resources. For instance, the growth of the extraction industry did not strongly contribute to the development of other industries, especially manufacturing sector of the economy (Botchway, 2011).

Additionally, the policy-makers did not pay significant attention to the development of human capital. One of the main problems that a country faces is the lack of skilled professionals who can bring innovations or raise the productivity of the manufacturing processes (Botchway, 2011, p. 37). In fact, many of the skilled professionals left the country. Furthermore, the upward social mobility in this country is very limited. In other words, it is extremely difficult for people to climb the existing social ladder, especially if they belong to low-income classes. To a great extent, the problems faced by Nigeria exemplify the so-called resource curse which means the presence of natural resources may actually slow down the economic development of a country, instead of stimulating its growth (Botchway, 2011, p. 37). These are the main problems which suggest that various principles of modernization were not properly implemented. This is one of the main challenges that can be singled out.

The relationship between social, political, and economic underdevelopment

Current difficulties that the country faces can be explained as a combination of different political, social, and economic factors that are closely related with one another. First, one should mention that the country lacks legal framework that can facilitate the work of businesses. It should be mentioned that, Nigeria has been under the military rule that lasted for nearly 33 years (Abegunrin 7). This form of government cannot adequately support the growth of businesses and the development of human capital. At present, the government attempts to pass reforms that can facilitate liberalization of economy. However, this process is far from being complete. Apart from that it is critical to mention corruption that can be found at different levels of the political system (Botchway, 2011). It is estimated that the country loses from $4 to $8 billion year because of corruption (Botchway, 2011, p. 37). This issue is also vital for understanding current problems of Nigeria.

Moreover, it is necessary to understand the social environment of the country. Currently, the country struggles with the legacies of colonial rule which was aimed at controlling the society, rather than eliminating inequality in the community. Furthermore, the country has to overcome the effects of the Civil War that lasted from 1967 and 1970 (Udogu, 2005). In other words, one can speak about internal conflicts within the Nigerian society. Apart from that, there are the tensions and even violent among different ethnic and linguistic groups (Udogu, 2005). Such conflicts undermine social and economic development of various regions of the country. They force individuals and groups to struggle for survival, instead of raising their educational level or productive capacity.

The issues described in this section have a profound implication for the economic development of Nigeria. For example, the long-term military rule slowed down the adoption of new technology as well as the development of the legislature that can facilitate the work of businesses. This tendency affected a great number of industries such as manufacturing sector or education. On the whole, these cases suggest that current difficulties of Nigeria can be attributed to a set of interrelated factors. The main obstacles are political and social problems that have not been resolved. This is one of the main issues that can be identified.

Modernization and dependency theories

These examples suggest that Nigeria confirms the principles of dependency theory. According to this geopolitical and economic model, natural resources tend to flow from peripheral and usually colonial countries to advanced states. The main premise of this theory is that the integration into the world economic system does not contribute to the development of the regions that were previously under colonial rule (Mbaku, 2004, p. 35). This result can be partly explained by the allegation that advanced states impose their terms on former colonial countries that become dependent on the export of natural resources such as oil. However, this situation can also be attributed to the failure of corrupt local government to promote sustainable development of economy. Therefore, one should not suppose that present-day underdevelopment of Nigeria originates only from the policies of the western countries. Such an assumption can hardly be called accurate.

Moreover, there is some evidence which suggests that this country adopts some principles of the modernization theory in effort to attain sustainable economic growth. For instance, the state focuses its attention on the deregulation of various industries since in this way it is possible to reduce the corruption and boost the development of the state. Moreover, deregulation leaves more room for the independent initiative of businesses. These are some the main aspects can be identified.

Examples of successful and failed modernization

It is possible to provide several examples which can show the strengths and weaknesses of the policies that Nigerian government implements. At first, one can say that their educational system is often called dysfunctional in part because educational organizations are underfunded (Ekpenyong, 2009). Another problem is that in Nigeria, students may drop out of schools at a relatively early age because of their economic difficulties (Ekpenyong, 2000). As a result of these trends, they find it difficult to find employment. Apart from that, the productivity in various Nigerian businesses is lower than in western states (Botchway, 2011). To some degree, this problem is related to the lack of skilled laborers who can enhance the performance of businesses. These are some of the main failures that should be considered.

Nevertheless, there are certain improvements which should not be overlooked. In particular, economists mention that the government managed to increase the transparency of the economy (Odularu, 2010). One can say that agricultural sector of the economy has become more competitive in part because the individual entrepreneurs managed to improve the efficiency of farming (Odularu, 2010). Currently, the agricultural sector of Nigeria is the strongest one in Africa. This is one of the positive aspects that should not be overlooked. To some degree, it indicates that the methods of modernization theory can be relevant to Nigeria.


On the whole, this discussion suggests that Nigeria can be viewed as a country that might have achieved better results in terms of social, economic, and political development. Despite the availability of natural resources, this state continues to struggle with various problems, especially lack of skilled labor force, low accessibility of education and corruption. One of the main problems is that social tensions and political corruption slows down the modernization of this country. However, these difficulties can be overcome if the country makes its political and legal system more transparent.

Reference List

Abegunrin, O. Nigerian Foreign Policy Under Military Rule, 1966-1999. New York, NY: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Botchway, F. (2011). Natural Resource Investment and Africa’s Development. New York, NY: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Ekpenyong, O. (2009). Community Education And Socio-Cultural Development In Nigeria. Leadership & Organizational Management Journal, 2009(4), 100-109.

Mbaku, J. (2004). Institutions and Development in Africa. New York, NY: Africa World Press.

Odularu. R. (2010). The Impact of Agricultural Trade Liberalization on National Food Security in Nigeria, 1970-2000. Boston, MA: Universal-Publishers.

Offu, A. (2013). The Nigerian Dependent Management & Leadership Development in the Post World War II Colonial Nigeria. New York, NY: AuthorHouse.

Udogu, E. (2005). Nigeria in the Twenty-first Century: Strategies for Political Stability and Peaceful Coexistence. New York, NY: Africa World Press.

Wang, J. (2009). Some Reflections on Modernization Theory and Globalization Theory. Chinese Studies In History, 43(1), 72-98.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Nigeria' Development: Modernization and Dependency Theories." May 23, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nigeria-development-modernization-and-dependency-theories/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Nigeria' Development: Modernization and Dependency Theories'. 23 May.

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