Chevron doubles down on Niger Delta initiative

An image of Niger Delta taken from outer space. Chevron has committed an additional $40 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative, a nonprofit working to improve economic growth in the region. Photo by: NASA 

Chevron has committed an additional $40 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative, raising the total commitment to $90 million, the largest social investment in the history of the company.

NDPI, a U.S.-based nonprofit, was established by Chevron in 2010 with a $50 million grant to promote economic development, improve the capacity of civil society organizations and reduce conflict in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region, where Chevron has considerable business interests. At the same time, it created the Nigerian Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta as its implementing agency to tackle critical development challenges in the poor, politically unstable region home to about 32 million people.

“The intent is basically to deepen and strengthen the impacts we’ve already started creating with the first five-year phase,” Dennis Flemming, executive director of the NDPI Foundation, told Devex on Tuesday.

Chevron recognized that a continued investment was needed to provide enough time to expand programs and maximize the impact of NDPI and PIND’s work, Flemming added. The additional money will likely not contribute any new programs but will continue to support existing programs and build them out to additional locations in the region.

Since it was set up four years ago, NDPI has created more than 600 jobs, supported nearly 100 local businesses and trained more than 5,500 community members, impacting more than 10,000 people living in the Niger Delta region. The initiative has more than a dozen projects ongoing in four focus areas: economic development, capacity building, peacebuilding, and analysis/advocacy. NDPI is working to improve the value chains for cassava, oil palm and aquaculture and connect smallholders to markets.

“Our business is fundamentally linked to economic prosperity, sustainable development and peaceful co-existence in regions where we operate,” Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron, said in a statement. “The NDPI partnership … underscores the role the private sector can play in helping build stronger, stable communities around the world.”

Representatives of other organizations have criticized the model for being difficult and unlikely to be replicated, but Flemming said there are some lessons that other corporations can take away from Chevron’s experience in the Niger Delta, even if the particular design is not easy to replicate.

NDPI’s focus on addressing the systemic challenges and building up local institutions — rather than just running projects — which is an approach other companies can adopt, regardless of the size of their investment. The approach relies largely on market-based interventions that help provide training, facilitate business linkages and limit community dependence on the donor funds.

While Chevron hasn’t created another NDPI-type entity in other locations where it works, some of the concepts and approaches are being adopted as the organization learns what works and shares lessons with the company, Flemming said.

NDPI is separate from Chevron, and has always looked to engage partners, with public and private donors matching the companies initial $50 million contribution. The company hopes to raise $80 million in the next five years to complement the $40 million committed Tuesday.

“We’re getting a lot of interest in our activities from a broad range of partners, not just typical aid donors,” Flemming explained. NDPI works with other private sector companies and private foundations in addition to the traditional donor agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development and GIZ, the German aid implementer.

The greatest achievement so far is not the various program and activities, which are showing early positive impacts, Flemming said, but that — between NDPI and PIND — a development organization dedicated to the Niger Delta now exists. The hubs it has established have become home to other donor agency projects and have created a collaboration among the various organizations. Sustainability is built into the programs and models NDPI uses, and it’s uncertain at this point if Chevron would again fund the initiative, or if that would even be necessary.

“We have laid the groundwork for a much more effective development community in the Niger Delta region and a set of players are working together who weren’t before and that is where I think the impact is really going to come from,” Flemming concluded.

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About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.