Nigeria’s economy – Africa’s largest – exited recession in 2017, assisted by the Central Bank’s more rationalized foreign exchange regime. Growth is expected to remain weak in the near term however – the IMF forecasts growth of 2.1 percent in 2019 and 2.53 percent in 2020, still under Nigeria’s population growth rate of around 2.6 percent. With the largest population in Africa (estimated at over 195 million), Nigeria continues to represent a large consumer market for investors and traders. A very young country with nearly two-thirds of its population under the age of 25, Nigeria offers abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool, and enjoys mostly duty-free trade with other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Nigeria’s full market potential remains unrealized because of significant impediments such as pervasive corruption, inadequate power and transportation infrastructure, high energy costs, an inconsistent regulatory and legal environment, insecurity, a slow and ineffective bureaucracy and judicial system, and inadequate intellectual property rights protections and enforcement. The Nigerian government has undertaken reforms to help improve the business environment, including making starting a business faster by allowing electronic stamping of registration documents, and making it easier to obtain construction permits, register property, get credit, and pay taxes. In 2017, these reforms helped boost Nigeria’s ranking on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business rankings from 169th to 145th place out of 190 economies. In 2018, it dropped one spot to 146th place.
Nigeria’s underdeveloped power sector remains a particular bottleneck to broad-based economic development. Power on the national grid currently averages 4,000 megawatts, forcing most businesses to generate much of their own electricity. The World Bank currently ranks Nigeria 171 out of 190 countries for ease of obtaining electricity for business. Reform of Nigeria’s power sector is ongoing, but investor confidence continues to be shaken by tariff and regulatory uncertainty. The privatization of distribution and generation companies in 2013 was based on projected levels of transmission and progress toward a fully cost reflective tariff to sustain operations and investment. However, tariff increases were reversed in 2015, and revenues have been severely impacted due to decreased transmission levels and currency devaluation, as well as high aggregate technical, commercial, and collections losses, resulting in a severe liquidity crisis throughout the power sector value chain. The Nigerian government, in partnership with the World Bank, published a Power Sector Recovery Plan (PSRP) (approved by the Federal Executive Council) in March 2017. However, two years after its launch, differing perspective on various PSRP interventions have complicated implementation. The Ministry of Finance appears to be driving the implementation effort and has convened three Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) committees charged with moving the process forward in the areas of regulation, policy, and finances. Discussions between FGN and World Bank appear to going forward, but sector players report skepticism that the World Bank’s USD 1 billion loan will be enacted, though FGN may proceed without it. The plan is ambitious and will require political will from the administration, external investment to address the accumulated deficit, and discipline in implementing plans to mitigate future shortfalls. It is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction, and recognizes explicitly that the Nigerian economy is losing on average approximately USD 29 billion annually due to lack of adequate power.
Nigeria’s trade regime remains protectionist in key areas. High tariffs, restricted forex availability for 43 categories of imports, and prohibitions on many other import items have the aim of spurring domestic agricultural and manufacturing sector growth. Nigeria’s imports rose in 2018, largely as a result of the country’s continued recovery from the 2016 economic recession. U.S. goods exports to Nigeria in 2017 were USD 2.16 billion, up nearly 60 percent from the previous year, while U.S. imports from Nigeria were USD 7.05 billion, an increase of 68.7 percent. U.S. exports to Nigeria are primarily refined petroleum products, used vehicles, cereals, and machinery. Crude oil and petroleum products continued to account for over 95 percent of Nigerian exports to the United States in 2016. The stock of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nigeria was USD 5.8 billion in 2017 (latest data available), a substantial increase from USD 3.8 billion in 2016, but only a modest increase from 2015’s USD 5.5 billion in FDI. U.S. FDI in Nigeria continues to be led by the oil and gas sector. There is also investment from the United States and other countries in Nigeria’s power, telecommunications, real estate (commercial and residential), and agricultural sectors.
Given the corruption risk associated with the Nigerian business environment, potential investors often develop anti-bribery compliance programs. The United States and other parties to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention aggressively enforce anti-bribery laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). A high-profile FCPA case in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector resulted in 2010 U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and U.S. Department of Justice rulings that included record fines for a U.S. multinational and its subsidiaries that had paid bribes to Nigerian officials. Since then, the SEC has charged an additional four international companies with bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain contracts, permits, and resolve customs disputes. See SEC enforcement actions at https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/fcpa/fcpa-cases.shtml.
Security remains a concern to investors in Nigeria due to high rates of violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism. The ongoing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) insurgencies have included attacks against civilian and military targets in the northeast of the country, causing general insecurity and a major humanitarian crisis there. Multiple bombings (the majority linked to the insurgent groups) of high-profile targets with multiple deaths have occurred outside of Nigeria’s northeast region as well since 2010, but the pace of such attacks has dipped significantly in recent years. In the Niger Delta region, militant attacks on oil and gas infrastructure restricted oil production and export in 2016, but a restored amnesty program and more federal government engagement in the Delta region have brought a reprieve in violence and allowed restoration of shut-in oil and gas production. The longer-term impact of the government’s Delta peace efforts, however, remains unclear and criminal activity in the Delta – in particular, rampant oil theft– remains a serious concern. Maritime criminality in Nigerian waters, including incidents of piracy and crew kidnap for ransom, has increased in recent years and law enforcement efforts have been limited or ineffectual. Onshore, international inspectors have voiced concerns over the adequacy of security measures at some Nigerian port facilities. Businesses report that bribery of customs and port officials remains common to avoid delays, and smuggled goods routinely enter Nigeria’s seaports and cross its land borders.
Freedom of expression and of the press remains broadly observed, with the media often engaging in open, lively discussions of challenges facing Nigeria. However, security services detain and harass journalists in some cases, including for reporting on sensitive topics such as corruption and security. Some journalists practice self-censorship on sensitive issues.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||144 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”||2019||146 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||118 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in Nigeria ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$5,800||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$2,100||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|