Despite a positive medium-term economic outlook, Nigeria is struggling with various challenges that undermine its economic potential: These challenges are coming to the forefront as the country prepares for presidential and national assembly elections on February 14, 2015. Executives should expect political volatility to hinder policy-making, fuel inflation, and currency depreciation. Business customers, partners, and government agencies will be in a wait-and-see mode up to elections. This could have implications for demand, investment plans, and the speed of moving through regulatory processes.
Power struggles ahead of the 2015 elections hinder the passage of important legislation and weaken investor confidence: Political infighting is undermining the current administration’s ability to pass policies. After various high-profile defections from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the newly formed All Progressive Congress (APC), the APC now forms a strong opposition. It is blocking all legislations including the 2014/2015 budget. President Goodluck Jonathan’s politically motivated decision to oust widely respected Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi weakened investor confidence significantly. In past months, the president also fired various ministers, including the ministers for information, environment, and foreign affairs.
Inflation is expected to rise, and the naira is expected to depreciate in 2014. Both trends will put downward pressure on consumer and business demand: Inflation will likely rise to double digits because wealthy individuals are flooding the economy with cash to back candidates and the government is increasing spending. In past elections, an influx of cash into the economy led to currency depreciation and inflationary pressure. Capital outflows as a result of the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, losses in government revenue because of oil theft and corruption, uncertainty over monetary policy, and weakening investor confidence have led the naira to depreciate. The power sector is undergoing major reforms that also increase prices. Electricity is now more expensive as the state-owned power company privatizes its distribution operations and hikes prices. Moreover, the worsening security situation in parts of the country is leading to higher distribution costs of consumer goods. Businesses producing locally will pass on rising production costs to consumers, who will, in turn, prioritize non-discretionary purchases.
The security situation is worsening ahead of the elections: Nigeria’s security challenges include bombings by Boko Haram and ethno-religious clashes in the northern and central areas, oil theft and piracy in the Niger Delta, and kidnappings in the Southeast. Election-related violence has hit Rivers State as skirmishes erupted between APC’s Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s supporters and his opponents. Boko Haram’s attacks have increased in recent months despite heightened military response.
Unemployment, poverty and corruption remain high and are the real drivers of criminal activity: Although Nigeria’s economy expanded an average of 7.2% per year between 2004 and 2010, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is still 62.6%, down only slightly from 64.2% in 2004. Social inequality and theft by powerful elites aggravate the dissatisfaction of ordinary Nigerians, who are then easily drawn into criminal activities because of lack of perspective. Oil theft by criminal gangs costs Nigeria US$ 8 billion per year. Corruption within the state oil company led to the loss of between US$ 10 to 50 billion of oil revenue from January 2012 to July 2013.
Companies should monitor developments closely to get ahead of risks and opportunities: Executives should monitor the pre-election period closely and manage corporate expectations regarding demand. Less risk-averse executives should consider strategic investments now as their competitors are in a wait-and-see mode. Details for what to monitor and which strategies to implement to protect and grow your business despite the worsening environment can be found in our latest report ‘Market Spotlight: Nigeria’.
Despite the tough environment this year, Nigeria’s solid growth will prevail: Nigeria’s medium-term macroeconomic outlook remains positive because of rising private consumption by the country’s 170-million-strong population, the economy’s diversification away from oil, and its attractiveness for investors. The GDP rebasement will also have a positive economic impact. A significant boost to total GDP figures will make Nigeria more attractive in every financial and economic model worldwide, luring more companies to invest locally.