Official figures for 2013, released by Nigeria’s statistics bureau, put the country’s GDP at $503bn (£307bn) – nearly double previous estimates and well ahead of South Africa at around $350bn.
The announcement follows a protracted process to “rebase” Nigeria’s economic data and include information from sectors such as telecommunications and the film industry. The rebasing exercise has pushed the country’s GDP from 42.3tn naira in 2013 to 80.3tn naira ($509.9bn) – a jump of 89%.
The revision pushes Nigeria up 12 places to become the 24th largest economy in the world – on par with Poland and Belgium and ahead of Argentina, Austria and Iran.
Nigeria had not recalculated its GDP since 1990, something which many other governments do every few years. New sectors have been added to the country’s output list include e-commerce, telecommunications, music and Nollywood, which is estimated to be worth billions of dollars, or 1.4% of the economy.
Shortly before the GDP announcement, the information minister, Labaran Maku, said: “For the first time in 15 years, we will know, scientifically, what the GDP figure is and what the contributions of every sector to the economy are. We will also be able to know the sectors that have made the most progress and which ones are lagging behind.”
The data is likely to make Nigeria more attractive to foreign investors, with its economy appearing not only larger but more diverse than previously thought. Economic analysts had forecasted a jump closer to 40-60%.
Several other African countries have recalculated their economic data recently, producing sharp rises in GDP estimates. A rebasing exercise in Ghana four years ago triggered a 60% increase.
But Nigeria’s GDP figures will not on their own produce dramatic changes in living conditions. The rebasing exercise has almost doubled GDP per capita, placing it among middle-income countries. However, at just $3,000, per capita income is low – and well below South Africa’s at $7,336. Nigerians continue to struggle with poverty, inequality and electricity shortages.
Yemi Kale of the National Bureau of Statistics said: “While it [GDP] depicts how rich a nation is, this is not necessarily the same as showing how rich the individuals in the nation are, due to the problem of unequal distribution of wealth. Similarly, growth in GDP is not synonymous with job creation.
“It is expected that as the economy grows, people’s income rise and their demand for goods and services increase. As a result, producers increase output and employ more people so that employment increases. However, though jobs are being created, the jobs may not enough to reduce unemployment or poverty.”