Balance of Power
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.