Sixty Years In The Making Of Africa’s Economic Powerhouse

On October 1st 2020, Nigeria celebrates its 60th anniversary since independence and, as it looks back at its triumphant journey to becoming Africa’s largest economy, it also looks positively ahead to the promise of increased prosperity and growth.

“We have seen our challenges and learnt our lessons,” explains Adetokunbo Ogundeyin, GMD and CEO of Proforce Defence Limited. “We realised that if we do not work together as a team, there is no way that we can be a success story.” As His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected for a second term, Nigeria finds itself on a path of unity and integrity, with the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 index witnessing it make a breathtaking leap of 15 places.

“Over the years, we have provided a very enabling environment,” affirms Alhaji Garba Abubakar, Registrar General of Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). “We have made the process of registration easy, cheaper and accessible to everybody.” This has had the chain effect of providing foreign direct investment a reliable space in which it can comfortably unfold within the economy. “Nigeria is a credible investment destination for international investors and providers of FDI,” declares Alex Okoh, Director General and CEO of BPE. “As far as the investment destinations of Africa are concerned, Nigeria stands above all the other economies.”

The AfCFTA will also open enormous opportunities for local and international investors. “The AfCFTA for me is a revolutionary decision of African leaders,” explains Adesola Adeduntan, CEO of First Bank. “Africa as a continent cannot develop without Nigeria. Roughly 20% of Africans are here. It’s a critical mass of people, with resources.” Indeed, opening trading borders will improve productivity, result in job creation and power Nigeria’s commitment to diversification.

“This year marks the 60th year of Independence of our country. It is a time of hope, optimism and fresh possibilities. We look forward as a nation to the opportunity to build on the foundations we have laid together on security, diversification of our economy and taking on the curse of corruption.”

President Muhammadu Buhari

As Africa’s largest oil exporter and home to the largest natural gas resources, Nigeria looks to boost its economy further by tapping into this great well of potential. Indeed, natural gas has the capacity to diversify and power industries and homes, create wealth and jobs and develop petrochemical industries. “Gas is a transition fuel for the whole world,” explains Mele Kolo Kyari, GMD of NNPC. “For our country, the quickest way to prosperity in industrial growth is through investment with gas. That will give us the cash we need to build the domestic market and allow the country to prosper.”

The Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) US$2.8 billion natural gas pipeline project is the single biggest gas pipeline project in Nigeria’s history and will boost domestic gas consumption, power generation and industrialisation by unlocking 2.2 billion cubic feet of gas to the domestic market while adding 3,600MW of power to the national grid.“We are very excited about AKK. Once the gas is here, we have plans to build more power stations and fertiliser production plants,” explains Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State. “It will open up great opportunities for industrialisation and the provision of electricity that is necessary for development.” In December 2019, with a view to diversify its power input, Nigeria also allocated N61 billion for the Nigeria Electrification Roadmap developed in partnership with Siemens AG.

President Buhari’s bold policies has placed diversification at centre stage with Nigeria expanding its economic reach through investment and involvement in a number of different sectors such as mining, agriculture, ICT and banking. “I keep telling people that Nigeria is going to be a centre for solutions for the continent,” declares Habeeb Okunola, CEO of TILT Group of companies. “It is going to be a hub.” Indeed, the potential of Nigeria’s abundant untapped mineral reserves has led President Buhari’s administration to set a target for the mining sector to contribute 3% of the nation’s GDP by 2025.

“Nigeria has invested N50 billion to generate mining data, which is beginning to generate interest, and we are seeing the results,” declares Hon. Olamilekan Adegbite, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development. The government has also provided numerous initiatives to add value to the entire chain within the agricultural sector. “From every angle you look at it, Nigerian economy is an agriculture economy,” claims Hon. Sabo Nanono, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. “Agriculture employs about 70% of the population.”

The initiatives implemented blend sectors in a way that combine and evolve the sectors so that the next generation of young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs can become involved in the agriculture sector to create a better and sustainable future for Nigeria. With one of the fastest-growing population of youths in the world where the number of people aged between 18 and 40 years forms 65% of the Nigerian population, Nigeria’s youth population is indeed proving to be its most valuable asset.

“Looking ahead, we shall consolidate on the gains in the agribusiness, capitalising on the growing profile in the sector, whilst also focusing on the youth market with increased investment in technology,” claims Oluwatomi Somefun, CEO and MD of Unity Bank Plc. “We have the talent in Nigeria,” affirms Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Director General and CEO of National Information Technology Agency (NITDA). “We are building the infrastructure in terms of the digital infrastructure and the recent ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area will open up the market. Nigeria’s startups will capture Africa.” The role women are playing is also shaping Nigeria’s future as they take on important leadership roles in the country. “I am conscious of the fact that my actions are not just limited to me but affect the perception and opportunity of any young woman.” explains Hadiza Bala Usman, MD of NPA.

Diversification solidifies an economy, and this proves to be true as Nigeria has again surpassed South Africa as an economic power. “Nigeria is the biggest market on the continent,” declares Hon. Babtunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing. “She is the diamond of the continent and the best kept secret from investors”. Today, Africa’s diamond is not only celebrating its Diamond Jubilee but the consolidation of a legacy of hope and prosperity for all future generations.


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