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The report takes into account new industries such as informational sciences and telecom, online retail and the energy sector, and shows that Nigeria has surpassed South Africa – which has an economy of some $353 million – as the continent’s dynamo.
Trade between the two countries reached $3.45 billion in 2013.
Despite fighting a militia war with Boko Haram in the northeast, Nigeria has been able to modernise its economy, expand its oil production, and embrace mobile technology quickly. Twenty-four years ago, when the last economic data was released by the Bureau, Nigeria had 300,000 land lines; today it has more than 100 million cell phone users.
But some analysts have cautioned against reading too much into the new data. They say that Nigeria has a population of 170 million, three times that of South Africa, and that some 70 per cent live on or below the poverty line.
Nevertheless, Nigeria’s growth is part of the overall economic success story on much of the continent.
According to an African Economic Outlook report in September, the average GDP growth in 2013 was 4.8 per cent; for 2014, the outlook is 5.3 per cent.
The report, which was published in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, focused on “Structural Transformation and Natural Resources’’ and praised African economies for weathering global economic and political crises.
The most resilient economies appear to be in West Africa (6.7 and 7.4 per cent, for 2013 and 2014 respectively); the weakest appear to be in North Africa (3.9 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively).
Between 2001 and 2012, fortunes appear to have shifted for some of the traditionally more powerful countries.
Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Angola, for example, are among the 10 fastest African economies while Egypt, South Africa, and Algeria are listed in the 10 slowest-growing economies.
Although the figures may differ, the AEO report predicts overall good health and growth for the continent in line with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank forecasts.
The IMF said that among the resource rich economies, Nigeria is expected to grow at 7.2 per cent and Mozambique at 8.4 per cent.