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Nigeria Presents Colossal IT Challenge & Opportunity
Africa's Largest Economy Holds Great Potential
By: Roger Strukhoff
Dec. 18, 2014 06:00 AM
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons.
Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as much as 70% of government revenue.
The doubling of Nigeria's estimated GDP was due largely to its "informal" economy, which may represent 75% of the whole thing. The country is also dependent on close to $20 billion in remittances from millions of Nigerian expats, making its economy resemble that of energy titan Mexico and non-energy titan Philippines.
The country's enormous population of more than 180 million people stands out among African nations. (South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania in contrast all have populations in the 45 to 50 million range.)
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sits amidst a tapestry--perhaps better termed a thicket--of pronounced religious, tribal and linguistic, and geographical divisions within a big nation that's about three-quarters the size of South Africa, or half again the size of Texas or France.
Nigeria ranks 76th among the 103 nations we survey, just behind Tanzania and Mexico and just ahead of Italy and Argentina. Within its region, it ranks 12th among 22 nations surveyed; within its income tier, 10th among 21.
When we measure Nigeria's raw potential, on the other hand--discounting socioeconomic factors and emphasizing current technological development--we find Nigeria among the world's leaders. In our "Goldilocks Index" it is running hot with technology--maybe too hot. Our research shows it to be a great place for the most fearless of all risk takers.
Developing this nation presents a colossal challenge and opportunity. Nigeria is a very complex, volatile, quickly developing place.
The Overall Challenge
By this measurement, Nigeria ranks as the 11th greatest challenge in the world, slightly greater than Kenya but less than Tanzania and much less than Cameroon and Ethiopia (to use some widely scattered examples in Africa). We haven't quantified how much it would cost per percentage point increase in development, but the challenge clearly involves hundreds of billions of dollars of investment to create significant, sustainabile change.
This news can be read as depressing or exciting, depending on whether the glass is viewed as three-quarters empty or one-quarter full.
The development, as in all nations, will be varied. Lagos State, for example, has commissions and committees dedicated to improving the region's technology and busienss climate, reminding me of Gauteng State in South Africa. Other regions of Nigeria, particularly as one moves northward, are less able at the present time to develop such efforts.
To address its challenges, Nigeria today has important technology conferences, a nascent venture capital scene, and a very large number of people (Nigerians and others) who believe in its future. The country has a unique opportunity to develop its ICT infrastructure and launch itself into the stratosphere of global economies.
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