Reading my IHT over breakfast this morning, I find Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, so enthused about Nigeria’s prospects that by the end of the decade he thinks we will be dreaming of…BRINCs. The week of President Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration he feels that Africa’s most populous country (almost 160 million inhabitants) is on the verge of economic takeoff. (Recall that eight years ago, Goldman Sachs set investors on Dreaming with BRICs. No African country featured in that list, as the “s” stood for plural, not for South Africa.)
Sachs lists “five solid reasons for optimism” on Nigeria:
- reform has paved the way for a restoration of civilian rule and the strengthening of critical institutions, including the National Assembly and state and district governments;
- the president’s democratic mandate is not in doubt, even if tensions linger in Nigeria’s traditional north-south ethnic divide;
- the rise of China and India is reshaping the world economy, and providing solid support for Nigeria’s growth. Nigeria can expect to sell not only its vast hydrocarbon deposits at good prices, but also a wide range of agricultural products and manufactured goods. Moreover, China is determined to be a major partner, financing core infrastructure — highways, rail and power grids — and developing major industrial capacity;
- the fourth reason is the “age of convergence,” the tendency of developing countries like Nigeria to make unprecedented economic advances through the deployment of best practices and advanced technologies;
- finally, Nigeria’s commitment to tackling extreme poverty and disease throughout the nation, including a bold mechanism to transfer federal funds to state and local governments in a robust and accountable manner. All over the country, schools, clinics and water points are being built.
Indeed, the forthcoming African Economic Outlook 2011, to be released on 6th of June in Lisbon, shows real GDP growth at around seven percent for the recent past and over the next two years. What is more, the source of growth is increasingly agriculture, rising by more than five percentage points to 37.2% over the past five years – thanks to good weather and cheaper agricultural credit.
Make no mistake: Oil-rich Nigeria, until recently the quintessential showcase for the havoc wrought by the resource curse, faces huge challenges. The 2010 Human Development Index ranks Nigeria number 142 out of 169 countries, placing her firmly in the Low Human Development category. Infant and under-five mortality rates and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS tear the country down. Nigeria’s education system, while reporting better primary- and secondary-school enrolment scores, faces disarray in the state university system through strikes and long closures. Un- and underemployment, especially amongst Nigerian youths, remain serious concerns; they will be the ultimate yardstick on which President Jonathan will be judged at the end of his mandate.