Our African expert looks at the priorities for the newly-elected Nigerian government after their historic win
As Nigeria went to the polls in the last week of March, most
Africa watchers were forecasting grim outcomes. Many held fears of
post-election riots, candidates claiming victory and the real
issues being ignored. But to our happy surprise, what happened in
Nigeria put real agendas at its core.
Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, recently overtaking South Africa as number one. It is the number one exporter of crude oil in the continent at 2.7 million barrels per day and is by far the largest single market, with one in every six Africans living in Nigeria.
Nigeria is also home to some of the most enterprising people in Africa. Abuja and Lagos wake up earlier than any other city that I know. At five in the morning, the streets are already buzzing with commuters going to work and street vendors setting up for the day. Some of the best managed companies and financial institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa are Nigerian. They are state of the art, ambitious and well run. These resources coupled with strong work ethic and high business standards have attracted international companies to Nigeria. As a result, it has seen GDP grow at a respectable average rate of 5.94% over the past 10 years.
The country has, however, had to face significant head winds: Boko Haram in the north of the country, alleged corruption among senior government officials, a decline in oil prices and the Ebola scare are some of the major issues. As a result, Nigeria has struggled to reach full steam.
It was only natural for this election campaign to focus on how the candidates looked to meet these challenges. Here are some of the things we now expect the new government to do:
- Simplify the regulatory regime: Unambiguous regulatory framework and an effective enforcement mechanism - the country and investors should expect transparent and clear frameworks for doing business.
- Accountability and transparency in public service structures and public resource management to stem out corruption. The apparent disappearance of USD 20 billion from the Nation Petroleum Corporation is still top of the agenda for the Nigerian people, and their new government needs to get to the bottom of this.
- A more concerted regional effort to eliminate Boko Haram. Stability in the north will go a long way to improving the ease of doing business and making the country more appealing to investors.
- Strengthen tax administration to make up for lost oil revenue. The government will also further its efforts to diversify the economy with a bigger focus on agriculture and manufacturing.
These plans and many more made during the election campaign will be implemented in the face of many challenges. Everyone understands addressing these challenges is going to be an uphill battle.
However, every Nigerian you speak to tells you that Nigeria and Nigerians have a bright future. Investor sentiment is at its best level in quite a long time. The economy will surely benefit from the optimism, and it will have a ripple effect in the region.
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