New Kids in The Block: BRICS, MINT, and Now D-8

Interview with the Secretary-General of the Developing Eight States’ Organization for Economic Cooperation (D-8), His Excellency Amb. Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam.

Cooperation is a fundamental resource for populous countries on the way to rapid economic and industrial development: for this reason, the case of D-8 is worthy of attention. Globalization unravelled enormous economic opportunities but also opened new and old contradictions. Developing-8 was founded in 1997 – the acme of globalization – following Prof. Dr Necmettin Erbakan’s vision to encourage stable cooperation among major Muslim developing countries. So, D-8 members are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Türkiye. D-8 encourages wide-ranging “intra-Muslim” cooperation in topical sectors: agriculture, food, energy, infrastructures, technology, and more. Or by words of a famous Swiss scholar, Djawed Sangdel: “The exercise of citizenship must allow everyone to become an actor of society. And by the same token; every society should be able to access globally.” 

Hence, each of the D8 Member States are carving out an increasingly important space in the global market. Türkiye has achieved record levels in exports over the past year (+12,9%). Nigeria’s GDP in 2022 grew by more than 3% while the country remains a reference point for the export of hydrocarbons – the country is among the first exporters of gas (LNG) and oil in the world and has the most abundant reserves on the African continent. Malaysia, which stands at a strategic crossroads, has been able to diversify an economy historically based on the export of hydrocarbons. About 12% of global trade passes through the Suez Canal. So, Egypt is a key country.

His Excellency Ambassador Isiaka Abdulqadir Imam from Nigeria is currently the Secretary General of the D-8 Organization with its Secretariat Istanbul-based. It is the first time that a representative of Nigeria has led the organization. Previously, was guided by a Turkish representative (Ambassador Ayhan Kamel), two Indonesians (Dr. Dipo Alam and Prof. Widi Agoes Pratikto), an Iranian (Dr. Seyed Ali Mohammad Mousavi), and, finally, a Malaysian (Ambassador Dato’ Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari).

Ambassador Imam holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the American University in Cairo, Egypt. After graduation in 1985, he joined Nigeria’s oldest bank, First Bank Nigeria, then he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1993. In his diplomatic career in the Foreign Service of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he served as Charge d’Affaires ad-interim at the Nigerian Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil. He had also served in different capacities in Nigeria’s Diplomatic Missions in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Pretoria, South Africa and Tokyo, Japan.

Based on the common religious identity, which is – even during globalization – a universal social glue, the D-8 organization has, by its nature and vocation, a global scope and seeks to achieve common objectives such as the resolution of economic disparities, cooperation in the field of energy and of renewables, the development of trade. Below is our interview with the Secretary-General.

The D-8 organization brings together developing countries with large populations and growing industries. How can resources (energy, food, etc…) be guaranteed for so many people, even more so at a time like this dominated by uncertainty and scarcity?

The D-8 is indeed home to more than 1.16 billion people. Ensuring the sustainability of resources, such as energy, food, water, and other necessities, can be enduring challenges.

As one of the measures to ensure food security, the D-8 established the D-8 Research Centre for Agriculture and Food Security in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2023. The Centre aims to create innovative solutions for agricultural resource management. This includes developing new technologies and improving agricultural practices, particularly by creating climate-smart agriculture. 

The D-8 Organization also forges collaboration and partnerships with external parties. The collaboration aims at sharing resources, knowledge, and best practices. It also aims at establishing joint initiatives and coordinated efforts to address common challenges. For instance, the D-8 is closely consulting with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and other development banks.

In the area of energy, the D-8’s priority is to strengthen the Member States’ resolve to ensure energy security while at the same time striking a balance with environmental protection. The Organization is also embarking on finding and creating alternative energy sources.

D-8 brings together distant and diverse countries with a Muslim majority. Can we say religion is a fundamental ‘social glue’ in a developing society – continuity in discontinuity – but also for international relations?

All D-8 Members happen to be from countries with Muslim-majority populations. All Members are also Members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. However, in its day-to-day operation, the D-8 operates beyond the realm of religion. As stated in both the Istanbul Declaration and the D-8 Charter, the D-8 was established with its main objective to be socio-economic development by peace instead of conflict, dialogue instead of confrontation, cooperation instead of exploitation, justice instead of double standards, equality instead of discrimination, and democracy instead of oppression. In simpler terms, the D-8 is an economic and development cooperation organization, not a religion-based one.

What goals do you set for your mandate as Secretary General? What are the critical issues that D-8 wants to solve?

One challenge that the D-8 face is that despite its size in term of population, i.e., 1.16 billion people, the intra-D8-trade volume does not reflect such a vast market. The intra-trade volume for 2022 was approximately US$ 164 billion.

Therefore, my goal as the Secretary-General is to increase the intra-trade volume to meet the mandated target of at least 10% of the bloc’s global trade by 2030. The Leaders also provided a quantitative number of US% 500 billion by 2030.

In so doing, I promote and enjoin the Member States to utilize and operationalize the D-8 Preferential Trade Agreement (D-8 PTA), which was signed in 2006 and entered into force in 2012. The PTA comprised offers of more than 1.200 tariff lines.

The major challenge to implement the D-8 PTA organization-wide, i.e., by all Members, is that to date, only five countries have finalized their required domestic procedures to implement the PTA.

My sub-objective, therefore, is to enjoin the remaining members to ratify and complete their internal procedures to implement the PTA.

Another challenge that the D-8 faces is that the organization has yet to be widely known, despite having existed for more than 26 years. Therefore, expanding the organization’s visibility within the Member States and globally has become one of my visions as the Secretary-General.

In so doing, I expanded cooperation with other international organizations, particularly within the United Nations system. The D-8 has an observer status at the United Nations General Assembly, which can serve as a foundation to expand its visibility internationally. Another measure to increase the organization’s visibility is effective awareness-raising campaigns using the organization’s public relations tools and social media accounts.

Lorenzo Somigli
Lorenzo Somigli
Lorenzo Somigli. Columnist specialised in energy and geopolitics, publications in Italian and international media and magazine like leSfide and Transatlantic Policy Quarterly. Reportage: Lebanon & Türkiye (2021). In Italy, parliamentary assistant (2021-ongoing) & media expert (culture, art).