Bal­ance of Power

Bespoke - - VISION -

In a world where pow­er­ful women are still too of­ten linked to pow­er­ful men, for­mer Nige­rian Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Ngozi Okonjo-iweala, is re­fresh­ingly her own per­son. Hav­ing proven in­stru­men­tal in de­vel­op­ing re­form pro­grams to sta­bilise her coun­try’s econ­omy, im­prov­ing gov­ern­men­tal trans­parency and help­ing it at­tain its firstever sovereign credit rat­ing, she ad­mits there are still plenty of chal­lenges to over­come.

At a shade over half a tril­lion dol­lars, Nige­ria is the largest econ­omy on the African con­ti­nent by a wide mar­gin. What’s more, re­cent eco­nomic head­lines for the coun­try have been im­pres­sive: growth raced ahead to 7 per cent be­fore the re­cent down­turn (it’s now just un­der 4 per cent) and to­tal GDP was re-based to fac­tor in the rise of a young and up­wardly mo­bile pop­u­la­tion. In the past cou­ple of years, bank­ing, re­tail, tele­coms and Nol­ly­wood have also been part of the ex­plo­sive growth story and ex­perts pre­dict the coun­try’s GDP will reach 1 tril­lion USD be­fore 2030. De­spite how low oil prices are af­fect­ing cur­rent growth, there’s been no short­age of praise show­ered upon Nige­ria from the global in­vest­ment com­mu­nity. Jim O’neill, au­thor and for­mer Gold­man Sachs lead econ­o­mist, in­cluded the coun­try in his Next-11 group of lead­ing emerg­ing mar­kets. MINT – a popular mar­ket acro­nym to sin­gle out ris­ing stars in the de­vel­op­ing world – stands for Mex­ico, In­done­sia, Nige­ria and Turkey. But it’s not all hunky-dory. A large share of the pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially in the north­east, a Boko Haram strong­hold, lives on less than 2 USD a day. The coun­try is blessed with the sec­ond largest oil re­serves in Africa (Libya’s got the largest) but ac­cu­sa­tions of cor­rup­tion are wide­spread at the Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion. Lamido Sanusi, the for­mer gover­nor of Nige­ria’s Cen­tral Bank dropped a bomb­shell dur­ing my an­nual emerg­ing mar­ket panel at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum two years ago, sug­gest­ing 20 bil­lion USD had gone miss­ing be­tween Jan­uary 2012 and July 2013.

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