Nigeria, A Matter of Numbers


Nigeria is about to become the biggest economy in Africa. This news may leave some readers frowning. The African continent has recorded in the last decade a steadily growing economic performance, and South Africa was the spearhead of this revival. However, over the last few years, rumors have spread about the rise of another giant: Nigeria.

In all likelihood Nigeria will leapfrog South Africa and be crowned as the biggest economy of the African continent. Details will be provided as soon as the government and its public agencies will show-off the nation’s current Growth Domestic Product (GDP). It has to be said that the government will most likely be showing the nation’s current GDP in a re-based version. Nigeria has never reported its GDP by taking into account its current price structure on a yearly basis and the only one taken into consideration so far is from 1990. It should be surprising to see how the ancient record of 1,555$ GDP will be soon outdoing the 7,508$ one of South Africa.

But like the former US President Kennedy stated some years ago, a GDP can tell us many things about our economy but not if we should be proud of it .

This is precisely what this matter of numbers is all about.  Nigeria and South Africa are two profoundly different countries. The latter has a lively and diverse economy with good infrastructures, banks and entrepreneurs, while Nigeria simply does not. Nigeria has, evidently, undergone radical change over the past decades. It has a booming mobile phone industry that did not exist in the 1990s and an economy that is heavily based on oil production, which contributes to 70% of government revenues, but it has a decadent infrastructure and a huge population. In fact, Nigeria is the most populous country on the African continent, with a population of 169 million people, in sharp contrast compared to the South Africa’s 51 million people.

Therefore, before basing everything on GDP reports, everyone interested in the country performance should take a closer look to the GDP per capita in order to properly understand how big the wallet of the ordinary person is. Albeit improvements have finally been set into place, there is still a long way to go. Most Nigerians still live under 1$, while the majority of South Africans live under better conditions.

Evidently, this is just an adjustment. Nigeria is becoming the biggest economy of Africa and it is modernising itself and it is growing, no matter how slow its politicians are willing to register this achievement.  It is somehow ironic to see how long it took for Nigerian policy-makers to make this correction but this step, along with many others scattered across the continent, is a clear sign that Africa is moving forward from its long-lasting stagnation and projected towards greater development.


Ian Ssali.


2 thoughts on “Nigeria, A Matter of Numbers

  1. ‘Most Nigerians still live under one dollar a day’. This is not moving forward, no matter how you look at it. GDP is only relevant when every week people stop killing each other in the name of politics or religion. This woud be a sign of real life stability. Clean water for all. Free education. Adequate housing. Life expectancy being above 55. GDP reports don’t mean a thing to most Nigerians. Food does though.

  2. You are right to point out that the situation will be fundamentally the same after the rebasing (this is exactly what the articles was addressing) but I disagree with your too doom and gloom forecast. Despite the problems affecting Nigeria today, changes has occurred over the last thirty years. The country has changed, not radically but it’s on the right track. Being added so many sectors to the economy in the analysis of its GDP, it is clear that something is moving and this is precisely what Nigeria and other African countries need. They need to take a step forward, a step off the mud of stagnation, add I would add also aid.

    After this step has been taken, we can discuss of how to properly realise this development. Considering the African continent as a whole, there are plenty of things to tackle, an example is what you listed in your comment.

    Thank you for contributing to let this place a forum where everyone can freely talk of matters that need attention and seriousness.

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