|The oil boom of the 1970s led Nigeria to neglect its strong agricultural and light manufacturing bases in favor of an unhealthy dependence on crude oil. In 2002 oil and gas exports accounted for more than 98% of export earnings and about 83% of federal government revenue. New oil wealth, the concurrent decline of other economic sectors, and a lurch toward a statist economic model fueled massive migration to the cities and led to increasingly widespread poverty, especially in rural areas. A collapse of basic infrastructure and social services since the early 1980s accompanied this trend. By 2002 Nigeria’s per capita income had plunged to about one-quarter of its mid-1970s high, below the level at independence. Along with the endemic malaise of Nigeria’s non-oil sectors, the economy continues to witness massive growth of “informal sector” economic activities, estimated by some to be as high as 75% of the total economy.
Nigeria’s proven oil reserves are estimated to be 25 billion barrels; natural gas reserves are well over 100 trillion cubic feet. Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and in 2003 its crude oil production was averaging around 2.2 million barrels per day. Poor corporate relations with indigenous communities, vandalism of oil infrastructure, severe ecological damage, and personal security problems throughout the Niger Delta oil-producing region continue to plague Nigeria’s oil sector. Efforts are underway to reverse these troubles. In the absence of government programs, the major multinational oil companies have launched their own community development programs. A new entity, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), has been created to help catalyze economic and social development in the region. Although it has yet to launch its programs, hopes are high that the NDDC can reverse the impoverishment of local communities. The U.S. remains Nigeria’s largest customer for crude oil, accounting for 40% of the country’s total oil exports; Nigeria provides about 7%-9% of overall U.S. oil imports and ranks as the fifth-largest source for U.S. imported oil.
The United States is Nigeria’s largest trading partner after the United Kingdom. Although the trade balance overwhelmingly favors Nigeria, thanks to oil exports, a large portion of U.S. exports to Nigeria is believed to enter the country outside of the Nigerian Government’s official statistics, due to importers seeking to avoid Nigeria’s excessive tariffs. To counter smuggling and under-invoicing by importers, in May 2001 the Nigerian Government instituted a 100% inspection regime for all imports, and enforcement has been sustained. On the whole, Nigerian high tariffs and non-tariff barriers are gradually being reduced, but much progress remains to be made. The government also has been encouraging the expansion of foreign investment, although the country’s investment climate remains daunting to all but the most determined. The stock of U.S. investment is nearly $7 billion, mostly in the energy sector. Exxon-Mobil and Chevron are the two largest U.S. corporate players in offshore oil and gas production. Significant exports of liquefied natural gas started in late 1999 and are slated to expand as Nigeria seeks to eliminate gas flaring by 2008.
Agriculture has suffered from years of mismanagement, inconsistent and poorly conceived government policies, and the lack of basic infrastructure. Still, the sector accounts for over 41% of GDP and two-thirds of employment. Nigeria is no longer a major exporter of cocoa, groundnuts (peanuts), rubber, and palm oil. Cocoa production, mostly from obsolete varieties and overage trees, is stagnant at around 180,000 tons annually; 25 years ago it was 300,000 tons. An even more dramatic decline in groundnut and palm oil production also has taken place. Once the biggest poultry producer in Africa, corporate poultry output has been slashed from 40 million birds annually to about 18 million. Import constraints limit the availability of many agricultural and food processing inputs for poultry and other sectors. Fisheries are poorly managed. Most critical for the country’s future, Nigeria’s land tenure system does not encourage long-term investment in technology or modern production methods and does not inspire the availability of rural credit.
Oil dependency, and the allure it generated of great wealth through government contracts, spawned other economic distortions. The country’s high propensity to import means roughly 80% of government expenditures is recycled into foreign exchange. Cheap consumer imports, resulting from a chronically overvalued Naira (Nigeria’s currency), coupled with excessively high domestic production costs due in part to erratic electricity and fuel supply, have pushed down industrial capacity utilization to less than 30%. Many more Nigerian factories would have closed except for relatively low labor costs (10%-15%). Domestic manufacturers, especially pharmaceuticals and textiles, have lost their ability to compete in traditional regional markets; however, there are signs that some manufacturers have begun to address their competitiveness.
Nigeria’s official foreign debt is about $32 billion, about 75% of which is owed to Paris Club countries. A large chunk of this debt is interest and payment arrears. In August 2000 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Nigeria signed a one-year Stand-by Arrangement (SBA), leading to a debt rescheduling agreement in December between Nigeria and its Paris Club creditors. Nigeria does not have a formal IMF program, but relations with the IMF and the World Bank have improved since April 2003. Any long-term debt relief will require strong and sustained economic reforms over a number of years.
In the light of highly expansionary public sector fiscal policies during 2001, the government has sought ways to head off higher inflation, leading to the implementation of stronger monetary policies by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and underspending of budgeted amounts. As a result of the CBN’s efforts, the official exchange rate for the Naira has stabilized at about 112 Naira to the dollar. The combination of CBN’s efforts to prop up the value of the Naira and excess liquidity resulting from government spending led the currency to be discounted by around 20% on the parallel (nonofficial) market. A key condition of the Stand-by Arrangement has been closure of the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates. The Inter Bank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM) is closely tied to the official rate. Under IFEM, banks, oil companies, and the CBN can buy or sell their foreign exchange at government influenced rates. Much of the informal economy, however, can only access foreign exchange through the parallel market. Companies can hold domiciliary accounts in private banks, and account holders have unfettered use of the funds.
Expanded government spending also has led to upward pressure on consumer prices. Inflation, which had fallen to 0% in April 2000, reached 14% by the end of 2003. In 2000, high world oil prices resulted in government revenue of over $16 billion, about double the 1999 level. State and local governmental bodies demand access to this “windfall” revenue, creating a tug-of-war between the federal government, which seeks to control spending, and state governments desirous of augmented budgets preventing the government from making provision for periods of lower oil prices.
Since undergoing severe distress in the mid-1990s, Nigeria’s banking sector has witnessed significant growth over the last few years as new banks enter the financial market. Harsh monetary policies implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria to absorb excess Naira liquidity in the economy has made life more difficult for banks, some of whom engage in currency arbitrage (round-tripping) activities that generally fall outside legal banking mechanisms. Private sector-led economic growth remains stymied by the high cost of doing business in Nigeria, including the need to duplicate essential infrastructure, the threat of crime and associated need for security countermeasures, the lack of effective due process, and nontransparent economic decisionmaking, especially in government contracting. While corrupt practices are endemic, they are generally less flagrant than during military rule, and there are signs of improvement. Meanwhile, since 1999 the Nigerian Stock Exchange has enjoyed strong performance, although equity as a means to foster corporate growth remains underutilized by Nigeria’s private sector.
Nigeria’s publicly owned transportation infrastructure is a major constraint to economic development. Principal ports are at Lagos (Apapa and Tin Can Island), Port Harcourt, and Calabar. Docking fees for freighters are among the highest in the world. Of the 80,500 kilometers (50,000 mi.) of roads, more than 15,000 kilometers (10,000 mi.) are officially paved, but many remain in poor shape. Extensive road repairs and new construction activities are gradually being implemented as state governments, in particular, spend their portions of enhanced government revenue allocations. The government implementation of 100% destination inspection of all goods entering Nigeria has resulted in long delays in clearing goods for importers and created new sources of corruption, since the ports lack adequate facilities to carry out the inspection. Four of Nigeria’s airports–Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja–currently receive international flights. Government-owned Nigerian Airways is virtually moribund due to mismanagement, high debt, and a vastly shrunken fleet. There are several domestic private Nigerian carriers, and air service among Nigeria’s cities is generally dependable. The maintenance culture of Nigeria’s domestic airlines is not up to U.S. standards.
Nigeria’s economic team, led by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala enjoys an excellent reputation in the international community. The team produced an encouraging body of work during the last nine months, notably a FY 2004 budget described as “prudent and responsible” by the IMF and a detailed economic reform blueprint, the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). Other positive developments during the past year included: (1) Government efforts to deregulate fuel prices; (2) Nigeria’s participation in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and commitment to the G8 Anticorruption/Transparency Initiative; (3) Creation of an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and (4) Development of several governmental offices to better monitor official revenues and expenditures. During 2000 the government’s privatization program showed signs of life and real promise with successful turnover to the private sector of state-owned banks, fuel distribution companies, and cement plants. However, the privatization process has slowed somewhat as the government confronts key parastatals such as the state telephone company NITEL and Nigerian Airways. The successful auction of GSM telecommunications licenses in January 2001 has encouraged investment in this vital sector.
Although Nigeria must grapple with its decaying infrastructure and a poor regulatory environment, the country possesses many positive attributes for carefully targeted investment and will expand as both a regional and international market player. Profitable niche markets outside the energy sector, like specialized telecommunication providers, have developed under the government’s reform program. There is a growing Nigerian consensus that foreign investment is essential to realizing Nigeria’s vast but squandered potential. Companies interested in long-term investment and joint ventures, especially those that use locally available raw materials, will find opportunities in the large national market. However, to improve prospects for success, potential investors must educate themselves extensively on local conditions and business practices, establish a local presence, and choose their partners carefully. The Nigerian Government is keenly aware that sustaining democratic principles, enhancing security for life and property, and rebuilding and maintaining infrastructure are necessary for the country to attract foreign investment.
The United States assisted with Nigeria’s economic development from 1954 through June 1974, when concessional assistance was phased out because of a substantial increase in Nigeria’s per capita income resulting from rising oil revenue. By 1974, the United States had provided Nigeria with approximately $360 million in assistance, which included grants for technical assistance, development assistance, relief and rehabilitation, and food aid. Disbursements continued into the late 1970s, bringing total bilateral economic assistance to roughly $445 million.
The sharp decline in oil prices, economic mismanagement, and continued military rule characterized Nigeria in the 1980s. In 1983, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began providing assistance to the Nigerian Federal and State Ministries of Health to develop and implement programs in family planning and child survival. In 1992, an HIV/AIDS prevention and control program was added to existing health activities. USAID committed $135 million to bilateral assistance programs for the period of 1986 to 1996 as Nigeria undertook an initially successful Structural Adjustment Program, but later abandoned it. Plans to commit $150 million in assistance from 1993 to 2000 were interrupted by strains in U.S.-Nigerian relations over human rights abuses, the failed transition to democracy, and a lack of cooperation from the Nigerian Government on anti-narcotics trafficking issues. By the mid-1990s, these problems resulted in the curtailment of USAID activities that might benefit the military government. Existing health programs were redesigned to focus on working through grassroots Nigerian non-governmental organizations and community groups. As a response to the Nigerian military government’s plans for delayed transition to civilian rule, the Peace Corps closed its program in Nigeria in 1994.
In response to the increasingly repressive political situation, USAID established a Democracy and Governance (DG) program in 1996. This program integrates themes focusing on basic participatory democracy, human and civil rights, women’s empowerment, accountability, and transparency with other health activities to reach Nigerians at the grassroots level in 14 of Nigeria’s 36 states.
The sudden death of Gen. Sani Abacha and the assumption of power by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in June 1998 marked a turning point in U.S.-Nigerian relations. USAID provided significant support to the electoral process by providing some $4 million in funding for international election observation, the training of Nigerian election observers and political party polling agents, as well as voter education activities. A Vital National Interest Certification was submitted to Congress in February 1999 by President Clinton to lift restrictions on U.S. Government interaction with and support to the Government of Nigeria.
Since that time, USAID has supported Nigeria to sustain democracy and to improve governance by providing training on the roles and responsibilities of elected officials in a representative democracy for newly elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels prior to their installation in May 1999 and assisting with conflict prevention and resolution in the Niger Delta, civil military relations, civil society, and political party development. In the economic area USAID supports programs in strengthening economic management and coordination, encouraging private sector development and economic reform, helping Nigeria reap the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), improved agricultural technology and marketing and smallscale and microenterprise development. In addition, health assistance, focusing on HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and immunization, education, transportation and energy infrastructure, are priorities for bilateral assistance.