Nigeria is now the largest economy in Africa. By 2050 it is forecast to be one of the 10 largest in the world. This represents the highest projected growth of any major economy. Its rise presents major opportunities for the UK. The UK is already Nigeria’s largest trading partner. The two countries share history, language and vibrant creative sectors. There is a clear chance for the UK to become one of Nigeria’s main partners in the creative industries and elsewhere, with potentially great mutual benefits in trade and influence.
As celebrations of the UK/Nigeria 2015-16 reach a climax, Alex Bratt explains how Nigeria is transforming itself - and what this means for the UK.
In 2009 the then Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua announced Vision 2020, a promise to finally translate years of financial mismanagement of the country’s abundant resources into growth and infrastructure to address the aspirations of the vast population. Nigeria is already the largest economy in Africa, due to significant growth in the telecoms, financial services, oil and gas, retail and creative sectors, and is a growing political power in the region. By 2050 it is forecast to be one of the 10 largest economies in the world. There are still major challenges if it is to achieve its stated ambitions, but its current trajectory is impressive.
Peaceful transition and growth
This summer former General Mohammed Buhari swept aside President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s first peaceful democratic transition. Early reports on Buhari’s tenure are promising, despite him battling failing oil prices and terrorism in the North. He has pledged to root out corrupt officials and re-appropriate funds that have for years been siphoned from government coffers and to invest in security, education, and governance.
Nigeria’s development could represent huge opportunities for the UK
Nigeria’s development could represent huge opportunities for the UK as well as Nigeria. The UK is already Nigeria’s largest trading partner. It already cooperates with Nigeria extensively in tackling its security challenges (including from Boko Haram in the North). In particular, Nigeria’s growing English-speaking middle class could be a significant future market for UK products. The two countries recently made pledges to broaden and deepen their historically strong relationship. This will require re-shaping mutual perceptions and looking at how the UK can work with Nigeria to achieve real prosperity for businesses and - more importantly – for ordinary people.
To achieve its goals, Nigeria needs to harness the entrepreneurial energy of its booming population. Indeed the British Council's Next Generation Nigeria report argued that “Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most valuable resource in the twenty-first century”. The staggering 62% of the population currently under 24 clearly represent an opportunity – as well as a challenge – for the future.
Megaphones blare out unintelligible announcements that sound Orwellian but are more likely to be entreaties to buy malted drinks
Perhaps one Nigeria’s biggest challenges is its sheer size: it is geographically vast and ethnically diverse. The commercial capital Lagos is a city of dizzying scale. Voted the fourth least liveable city in the world, it can often feel like a place where the future has already been and gone. Decaying colonial buildings nestle amongst state-of-the-art glass sky-scrapers. Power-cuts punctuate the bustle. Traffic jams snake across the gargantuan bridge connecting Lagos to the mainland. [quote] Megaphones blare out unintelligible announcements that sound Orwellian but are more likely to be entreaties to buy malted drinks.
Yet despite being "crowded, noisy and violent", a recent Economist article suggested Lagos as a positive model for the rest of Nigeria. It is the home of ‘Nollywood’ - the third largest film industry on Earth and a major exporter of Nigerian culture across Africa. It is the epicentre of Nigeria’s creative economy, accounting for around 10% of GDP.