Nigeria’s inflation has been on a steady rise. Reports released by the National Bureau of Statistics today, revealed that consumer prices increased by 12.4% year-on-year, even higher than the rate reported in the month of April, 12.3%.
This growth represents the highest in over two years, and while this is not entirely surprising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, another country is experiencing a completely different outcome.
Earlier today as well, in the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced a four-year low in inflation as a result of the crash in fuel prices. Inflation rate fell as low as 0.5% also in May, even lower than the 0.8% it recorded in April, the first full month of the pandemic lockdown.
This was also a record low since June 2016, moving further away from the British government 2% target.
Same Covid-19 pandemic, but different Inflation Problems
Nigeria’s prices stay rising as clashes between herders and farmers further worsen insecurity whilst inter-state travel stay disrupted owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
More so, as a result of the increase in the cost of food brought about by food inflation which quickened to 15.04%, the highest rate since March 2018, an import-dependent Nigeria is exposed to inflationary uptrend.
The problem with inflation getting to high is that it erodes income, reduces the value of the naira, and reduces returns on debt instruments domiciled in the naira.
However, just the same way Nigeria is worried about the current rate of inflation reaching new highs, the UK is experiencing a different kind of problem as it heads towards deflationary levels.
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This, of course, is another dangerous position because deflation contributes to lower economic growth as falling prices typically discourage spending with consumers delaying their purchases to later periods where prices are expected to be lower.
This goes to show that extreme levels of inflation, whether very low or very high, has a negative impact on economic growth and could be as dangerous.
What is inflation?
Inflation is the rate at which the prices for goods and services increase.
It’s one of the key measures of financial wellbeing because it affects what consumers can buy for their money. If there is inflation, money doesn’t go as far.
It’s expressed as a percentage increase or decrease in prices over time. For example, if the inflation rate for the cost of a litre of petrol is 2% a year, motorists need to spend 2% more at the pump than 12 months earlier.
And if wages don’t keep up with inflation, purchasing power and the standard of living fall.
FPI and FDI drop to $68 million and $18 million respectively in April, lowest since 2016
The Covid-19 economic lockdown impacted negatively on investor inflow into Nigeria.
Nigeria attracted just $67.9 million in Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) inflow for the month of April 2020, the lowest inflow recorded this year. This is contained in the latest capital importation data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
A cursory look at the Central Bank data shows that FPI sharply reversed from $2.30 billion at the beginning of the year (January) to just $67.9 million inflow in April 2020. Nigeria like most emerging markets relies heavily on foreign portfolio investments to shore up its external reserves and manage its exchange rate position.
Nigeria shut down its economy in the whole of April as part of its measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FPI and FDI hit 2016 recession low
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global economy with emerging markets like Nigeria feeling the full brunt from a fiscal and monetary perspective.
With the pandemic projected to spread recession across major countries including G20 nations, investors are wary of pumping money into poorer countries like Nigeria. This is despite trillions of dollars in stimulus packages injected by the likes of Japan, the US, Europe, and Canada. Foreign investor apathy is also due to the global lockdown which is still in full force in many sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria.
In total, Nigeria attracted only $316.8 million capital inflow in April, a 113.5% drop representing a significant decline when compared to the $2.30 billion capital inflow received in January 2020. Total capital importation was $2.4 billion and $615 million in February and March respectively. The majority of the inflows recorded in January and February flowed into Money Market Instruments.
The breakdown of capital inflow shows that the main components of capital inflow (FPI and Foreign Direct Investment) plunged significantly.
As at the end of April 2020, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) received was estimated at $18.5 million, down from $110.9 million received earlier in January 2020. FPI, on the other hand, recorded a 3,297% decline from $2.30 billion in January to $67.9 million inflow in April 2020.
This is the lowest capital inflow received in the Nigerian economy in a single month since the 2016 recession. In 2016 December, Nigeria recorded $76.15 million FPI and $67.9 million in January 2017 respectively.
According to the recent report released by the World Bank on the Nigerian economy, in the first quarter of 2020, the total FPI flows into Nigeria declined by 54%, and this is due to increased risk aversion in global capital markets.
While FPI and FDI both declined, the Central Bank continues to offer high yield to foreign investors, causing the share of FPI in total capital inflows to rise to over 50 percent in 2019. The shift from FDI to FPI represents an increase in Nigeria’s reliance on “hot money” to finance the Balance of payment, which exacerbates the vulnerability of the current account.
Although, the foreign reserves have improved in recent weeks, averaging $36 billion in June 2020. Meanwhile, a sustained reversal in capital flow may further expose the country’s foreign reserves, a situation which may necessitate another round of exchange rate unification (Naira devaluation).
Economic Reopening still a longshot
In the past weeks, major economies of the world have embarked on gradual easing of lockdown, a move targeted at restarting local trade and initiate the recovery process. However, there are new pushbacks on reopening plans as renewed concern about the possibility of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe remains high.
Nigeria has also faced similar pushbacks on reopening the economy further prolonging a restart of full economic activities. Just recently, the federal government approved a N2.3 trillion stimulus package which they will fund from special accounts and a $3 billion loan from the World Bank. This is in addition to the $3.4 billion already drawn from the IMF. Whilst, these are all geared towards stimulating the economy, the economic devastation from COVID-19 remains a huge concern.
Both the IMF and World Bank have predicted the Nigerian economy to contract by 3.4% and 5.4% respectively in 2020. According to the World Bank, in 2020, the current account is expected to hold steady at about -3.1 percent of GDP in 2020, although imports and exports are both projected to contract considerably.
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Also, the World Bank disclosed that Nigeria’s exports are expected to fall by US$40.3 billion, 9% of GDP, because of the drop in global oil prices, and imports are expected to fall by US$50.5 billion, 12% of GDP, due to sluggish demand and disruptions in global supply chains.
Indeed, Nigeria is in a significantly weaker macroeconomic position than it was during the 2015/16 recession, and it has fewer policy instruments to cushion the shocks induced by the pandemic.
EFG Hermes highlights sectors that will boom Post-COVID
Investors and executives will nevertheless have to navigate a changed landscape.
EFG-Hermes Holding, a financial service corporation, has said that investments across certain sectors of the Nigerian economy would receive boosts when the COVID-19 pandemic ease by September, 2020.
The sectors, according to the experts, that would attract more investments and patrons after the pandemic subsided are Agriculture, Digital payments, health, consumer goods and capitalised financial institutions among others.
This was disclosed by experts during a virtual investors conference organised by EFG-Hermes and attended by Nairametrics.
Head, Frontier research, EFG-Hermes, Kato Mukuru, explained that the sectors will be investors delights post-COVID, as more investments would be attracted to them and they are essential products/services consumers can not do without. He said,
“The good thing about COVID-19 is that it has forced new sectors to come through. More local and foreign investors will be going into food cultivation, processing, storage and distribution to take advantage of the expansion in the industry.”
Mukuru added that Nigeria’s biggest financial institutions would also attract new investments and customers as most lenders are deficient in capital and many will need capital to stabilise after the pandemic.
“There are clients that are looking at very good opportunities and we are discussing with them. I know a local investor who is looking to do hospitals post Covid-19. We have started that dialogue,” he added.
The lockdown introduced by the Federal Government created opportunities for some operators in the digital payment space, as many moved from cash to digital payments.
Also, a crash in the price of crude oil, the nation’s major revenue earner intensified effort by the government to diversify income sources by supporting investments in agriculture and processing industries.
Despite current challenges facing the Frontier Emerging Markets (FEM), Mohamed Ebeid, co-CEO of the Investment Bank at EFG Hermes, explained that changes in the macro picture might create new opportunities for countries, markets and companies.
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He said, “We do see the prospect of some relief from immediate pressures, with an easing of FEM portfolio outflows expected as major central banks continuing to implement large expansionary programs.
‘We could also see a floor put under commodity price drops as major oil producers solidify their commitment to large output cuts. Investors and executives will nevertheless have to navigate a changed landscape, where previously more-or-less hidden structural trends come to the fore and accelerate.”
Ebeid added that the main objective of the Virtual Investor Conference was to provide participants with first-hand insights from key international players, spurring further investment in FEMs.
Nigerian businesses are optimistic about July – CBN
Regarding the currency outlook, respondent firms expect the Naira to depreciate in the current month.
A CBN survey revealed that Nigerian businesses have an optimistic outlook for the months of July, August, and December. The confidence index for the months stood at 31.8., 47.4 and 67.8 index points, respectively. This is following the largely pessimistic outlook towards the Nigerian economy for the month of June which had an overall confidence index (CI) of -24.3 index points.
The survey was conducted by the Statistics department of the Central Bank of Nigeria and it involved a sample of 1050 businesses that cut across small & medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as large corporations in Nigeria. Respondent firms also included import-based and export-based businesses alike. It attained a response rate of 96% and the sample took cognisance of companies in the agricultural industry, services, manufacturing, wholesale/retail trade, and construction.
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The overall outlook of respondents on financial conditions like working capital, access to credit, and average capacity utilization was also negative. The only good expectation was from expected volume of business activities.
The Major Challenges
The firms that took part of the survey highlighted issues like insufficient power supply, competition, high-interest rate, financial problems, unfavourable economic climate, unclear economic laws, insufficient demand, unfavourable political climate, access to credit and lack of equipment as the primary factors that constrain business activity.
Regarding the currency outlook, respondent firms expect the Naira to depreciate in the current month. Much like the overall outlook, they also expect it to appreciate in July, August and December. Inflation level is also expected to rise and borrowing rate is equally expected to rise in the same months respectively.