By Bashir Adigun and Tom Odula
LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria is moving to rapidly diversify the country’s economy to stop its dependency on crude oil exports, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Thursday.
Nigeria has depended on oil as its major source of revenue in the last three decades at the expense of agriculture and other sectors, Buhari said. He spoke as he received new ambassadors.
Buhari, who took power in late May, inherited near-empty coffers, tens of thousands of unpaid civil servants and an economy battered by a sharp drop in oil prices. Africa’s largest economy and oil producer has also been plagued by widespread corruption, especially in the oil sector. In July, a government body revealed more than US$20 billion in oil revenue to be missing.
Despite the challenges, Nigeria is still attracting investment due to the scale of the market, according to analysts. South African supermarket giant Shoprite announced last week that it will open 14 new stores in addition to the existing 12 in Nigeria.
“Nigeria isn’t a particularly appealing market. It’s a very difficult place to do business, growth is stalling, and the retail sector is much less well-developed than other markets, like Kenya,” said John Ashbourne, the Africa expert in Capital Economics, a leading macro-economic research firm. “But the potential for growth is absolutely jaw-dropping if you manage to get in, as they say, on the ground floor of a country that could have 500 million people within a few decades.”
Ashbourne said expansion of the economy of just Lagos, the country’s commercial capital, is almost as big as Angola’s.
“If independent, (Lagos) would be Sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest economy, after the rest of Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola,” he said.