‘Nigeria’ evokes many things in a casual conversation: instability, a growing terror threat instigated by an islamic sect and, perhaps most pointedly: why go to Nigeria at all? But what you might hear less of, and indeed will soon be hearing a lot more about, is that Nigeria is the African economic juggernaut whose GDP growth of an average 6.8% between 2005 and 2013, is making even the tardiest international investor take note.
Indeed, such is the speed of growth in the west African nation, that it could soon replace South Africa in the G20, the group of 19 advanced and developing countries plus the EU, set up in 1999.
Beyond its oil and gas economy, which makes up around 80% of the government’s earnings, Africa’s most populous nation, with around 170million people, and its second-largest economy, offers mouth-watering retail opportunities with wealthy Nigerians eager to spend. The luxury designer Zegna opened its first branch in the commercial capital, Lagos, earlier this year, auguring well for the future.
Mobile phone penetration looks like a vertical graph over the past ten years, with around 90million Nigerians using mobiles whilst that figure is set to jump to 82% penetration by 2015. Technology is ubiquitous: street sellers flaunt the latest gadgets as they try to make ends meet; iPads and iPhones are sold on the street when you stop at a traffic lights in northern Nigeria, Kaduna.
And perhaps the trend that crystallises Nigeria’s potential the most is that savvy, internationally educated Nigerians – and there are many – who have studied in the UK or the States are now returning home. That movement is growing as they scent opportunity with many pursuing entrepreneurial avenues of their own. To some high-level, local businesspeople I spoke to recently, the country is the last bastion of untapped potential in Africa – and that should suffice to ensure Nigeria is an emerging nation to look out for.