How does an economy that does not have regular electricity, where infrastructure is in deficit and most of the people are so poor that the Gross Domestic Product per capita does not get into their pockets, become the largest in Africa?
It seems a miracle that any calculations can place Nigeria’s economy above South Africa’s with our well-recounted challenges, including queues for petrol. They have been on for almost a month in the 2014 season of a national series of embarrassments. Nigeria, its economy and policies that propel them are mainly embarrassments.
The rebasing that pushed Nigeria’s GDP to $509 billion, ahead of South Africa’s $350 billion, is 24 years late. Nigeria had been working with a 1990 base. While the exercise saw GDP jump 89 per cent from N42.3 trillion (2013) to N80.3 trillion, the economy’s acknowledgement of sectors like telecommunications, music and Nollywood should mark more efforts at harnessing the potentials the sectors hold.
Nigeria’s huge population does not feel the impact of the growth, which indicates more the impact of governments’ interest in statistics than economic achievements. Others rebase their economy every five years. We waited for almost a quarter of a century to do ours.
If without electricity Nigeria rakes up 12 places to become the 26th largest economy in the world, sharing the spot with Poland and Belgium, and ahead of Argentina, Austria and Iran, we can imagine what could be achieved with better infrastructure and less corruption.
Business could boom on the short term if investors try to discover the new African economic powerhouse. Whether Nigeria would benefit from its new status would depend on numerous factors, among them infrastructure, security, and diversification of the economy away from the entrapments of oil and gas. The over-dependence on crude oil exports and the poor re-investment of oil receipts have left the economy at the mercy of the volatile product.
It is important that a dispassionate assessment of the challenges and opportunities the rebasing of the economy presents is made. Instead of celebrating it, as if the economy had made a leap that would land Nigerians in prosperity, policies could be devised round it to attract new investors to Nigeria.
The long job queues remain, as more people are joining them. Millions are becoming poorer; the growth in the economy excludes their own realities. They are on the fringes of growth. Rampant corruption denies the economy resources and disrupts systems.
An economy should benefit the people. Economic growth that cannot create jobs, improve the situation of people barely serves any purpose than bolstering figures. Nigerians would be more delighted with economic benefits than their country leading Africa by leaving them behind.