For managers of the Nigerian economy, it was a huge sigh of relief when the National Bureau of Statistics reported that the country had surprisingly exited a recession in the 4th quarter of 2020. Contrary to most analyst expectation, the Nigerian economy grew by 0.11% in the 4th quarter of 2020.
Despite the return to growth, albeit tepid, a dark cloud of uncertainty continues to hover over the minds of millions of Nigerians as the broader economy remains in a fragile state. A key factor that remains a bellwether for the economy is the exchange rate, which is always perfectly correlated with the price of oil and the resultant dollar related export earnings.
Data has repeatedly shown that the country of over 200 million people is affected by the volatility of crude oil prices in the international market, particularly in the exchange rate value of the naira. Without oil, the Nigerian economy in its current state will collapse.
Data from Nairalytics, a data-sharing portal, reveals that the oil sector provides for 85% of Nigeria’s export earnings and 55% of its government revenues, making the nation highly dependent on the dollar for its survival. It appears a lot of financially savvy Nigerians now this already and are increasing their dollar positions.
According to Silas Ozoya, Founder/CEO of SUBA Capital LLC, in an exclusive interview with Nairametrics, a growing number of Nigerians are getting more attached to the US dollar due to high inflation and low purchasing power of the naira.
“Many Nigerians are beginning to dollarize their spending, investment and asset holdings to hedge against the ever-increasing inflation rate and our strong economic romance with recession,” Ozoya said.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude oil producer, has been heavily impacted by the plunge in crude oil prices following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the nation’s authorities adjusting the naira twice in the year 2020 to deal with the pressure.
Besides the drop in foreign exchange revenues from crude oil export, diaspora remittances, which made up about 5% of Nigeria’s GDP in the year 2019, also experienced a significant decline in 2020, again due to the impact of the pandemic and the economic challenges faced by many nations across the globe.
Uwa Osadiaye, a financial analyst in a leading merchant bank, in a note to Nairametrics, revealed that the Nigerian apex bank had made great efforts to reduce the country’s high dependence on the dollar. He advised the nation to increase its Agricultural production.
“The central bank has tried to do this with little success but I believe that beyond administrative measures, the key could lie in increased domestic production of things we consume that aren’t commoditized internationally for a start, such as food crops,” Osadiaye said.
Temitope Busari, CFA, in a telephone interview with Nairametrics, said that it was time for Nigeria as a country to diversify.
“One outcome of the diversification of the Nigerian economy, and perhaps the most critical one at this time, is the potential to diversify our foreign exchange earnings as a sovereign state. It will reduce overdependence on crude oil, maximize opportunities in erstwhile neglected sectors and project the country as the destination for top-class value creation in other areas outside being an oil-producing state,” Busari stated.
The financial analyst also spoke on the need for Africa’s leading oil producer to invest more in intellectual property and encourage Nigeria’s talent in the diaspora, saying:
“We have produced some of the most brilliant minds in the world evidenced by the ground-breaking successes recorded by Nigerians in diaspora (Medical professionals, Software engineers, resilient small business owners to mention a few), and we must begin to drive policies to retain that talent in-country and make the world pay premium dollar for it.”
Adetayo Teluwo, a scholar at Warwick Business School, said that the narrative seems to be changing as Nigerians are now beginning to embrace homemade goods.
“The Fashion & Style scene continues to boom. From side hustles to globally-competitive websites with options to accept payments from customers all over the globe,” Teluwo said.
Economic experts believe that the way to solve this growing menace is for Nigeria to promote free markets and support large scale exports from the Agricultural, Mining, and Technology sectors. The country should tap into its raw diamond which is “intellectual services” to develop a knowledge economy.
Nigeria can draw lessons from India, which has performed remarkably well in creating an outsourcing and knowledge-based economy valued at over 150 billion dollars per annum. This has put India on the technology map, as a destination of low-cost but high-quality technical services, helping the densely populated nation to generate sufficient economic ripple effect to drive job and wealth creation.