With $510B economy, Nigeria overtakes South Africa as Africa's biggest
A man arranges Nollywood DVD's in a shop in Lagos, Nigeria on Feb. 5, 2014. The African country's movie industry is helping to drive its economic growth. (AP/ Sunday Alamba)
Michelle Faul, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, April 6, 2014 7:41AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, April 6, 2014 11:48AM EDT
LAGOS, Nigeria -- Nigeria's recalculated economy is worth $510 billion, by far the biggest in Africa, officials announced Sunday of a long overdue recount that gives the West African nation continental bragging rights but does little for the nearly 70 per cent of its citizens living in poverty.
The new estimate of Nigeria's GDP adds previously uncounted industries like telecommunications, information technology, music, airlines, burgeoning online retail outlets and Nollywood film production that didn't exist when the last GDP count was made in 1990. Then, there were 300,000 landlines. Today, Nigeria has 100 million cellphone users.
With one fell swoop, Nigeria knocked out of the ring South Africa, whose GDP of $353 billion was previously counted the biggest on the continent, winning it a place as the only African member of the G20.
Figures announced by Nigeria's statistician general, Yemi Kale, nearly doubled previous estimates of the economy -- from 42.3 trillion naira in 2012 to 80.3 trillion naira for 2013. He said that equated to $509.97 billion, using an official exchange rate of 157.48 naira to $1. But the naira has been trading more realistically at about 168 naira to the dollar for months, giving a figure of $477.98 billion.
Finance Minister Ngozi Ikonjo-Iweala told a news conference Sunday that the recalculation makes Nigeria the 26th largest economy in the world and raises its per capita income to $2,688, making it No. 121 in the world, up from No. 135.
That is still feeble compared to South Africa's $7,336 for its population of 48 million. South Africa, bedeviled by mining strikes, violent protests over services and a lacklustre performance that has kept annual growth at around 3.5 per cent, still has infrastructure unrivaled on the continent, most notably a power sector that generates 10 times more electricity as Nigeria.
Nigeria's revised figures will lower its much-vaunted growth rate of 7 per cent but also will decrease an already low debt to GDP ratio of 21 per cent, which should lower interest rates should the government want to borrow more, economists said.
Financial analyst Bismarck Rewane called the revisions "a vanity. The Nigerian population is not better off tomorrow because of that announcement. It doesn't put more money in the bank, more food in their stomach. It changes nothing."
Nigerians took to social networks to share their feelings. "So Nigeria has now supplanted South Africa as Africa's largest economy. But I've not had light (electricity) for seven days, so it means nothing to me," said one tweet.
Another commented: "Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy - on paper. So technically, I'm rich in theory."