Nigeria poised to become Africa's biggest economy

Friday 04 April 2014 11.43
Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer and exporter, has seen high rates of growth in recent years
Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer and exporter, has seen high rates of growth in recent years

Nigeria could leap-frog South Africa to become Africa's biggest economy this weekend, when the results of a new way of calculating national output are announced. 

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said it will unveil the new figures on Sunday, with widespread expectations that the recalculation will catapult the continent's most populous nation into top spot. 

United Nations statisticians recommend that countries rebase their gross domestic product calculations every five years to reflect changes in production and consumption, but Nigeria has not recalculated GDP since 1990. 

The new figures will take into account new and fast-developing sectors and industries such as telecoms and the local film industry, Nollywood. 

Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer and exporter, has seen high rates of growth in recent years, making it an increasingly attractive investment destination for overseas firms. 

The annual growth rate averaged 6.8% from 2005 to 2013 and the economy is this year projected to grow at a rate of 7.4%, according to the International Monetary Fund. 

That compares to a little over 5% between 2005 and 2008-9 in South Africa, which has struggled to go beyond 3.5% since.

Analysts, however, have warned that even if Nigeria does become Africa's biggest economy, the figures do not tell the whole story.

GDP per capita rates are significantly higher in South Africa and the government in Abuja has admitted that unemployment remains a key issue, as does spreading wealth more evenly throughout society. 

Although pockets of vast wealth exist, most of Nigeria's estimated 170 million people still live on $2 a day, while key services such as water and electricity provision are poor.