5th largest economy by 2075?




It was the most, possibly the only, cheering news that I could find in our national newspapers at the weekend. Amidst stories of kidnappings, bandit attacks, eighty-nine Chibok girls still unaccounted for, do-or-die battles in the two leading opposition parties and Yoruba Nation agitators storming the Oyo State Government secretariat in Ibadan with apparent secessionist aims, it was the one cheering story. Prominently displayed in This Day on Sunday was the projection by Goldman Sachs, described as “a leading global investment bank,” that Nigeria will emerge as the world’s fifth largest economy by 2075.

I did a celebratory jig for a few minutes. Nigeria, the report said, will be the world’s 15th largest economy by 2050 on its way to the 5th position a quarter of a century afterwards, with a $13 trillion Gross Domestic Production, up from $487 billion by the end of this year [which is itself a projection since the year has not ended]. By that magic year, according to Goldman Sachs, we would have overtaken all our today’s struggling peers by far. They include Pakistan, which Goldman said would be just behind us in 6th position; Egypt [7th], Brazil [8th], Bangladesh [16th], Ethiopia [17th], Saudi Arabia [18th], Malaysia [23rd] and South Africa [25th].

Those ones are within the realm of the possible, I think. But wonder of wonders, we would have overtaken Germany [in 9th position], United Kingdom [10th], Japan [12th], Russia [13th], France [15th], Canada [19th], Turkey [20th], Australia [21st], Italy [22nd] and South Korea [24th]. In 2075 we would only be behind China as the world’s largest economy, India as the 2nd largest, USA as 3rd and Indonesia as 4th, according to Goldman Sachs.

Oh, how very pleasing that will be, to be among the world’s top five biggest economies. We would be rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty. Nigeria’s voice will be the only one heard in ECOWAS and African Union. We will call all the shots in the African Free Trade Area. Maghreb Union, Arab League, OPEC and OIC will all come crouching here, lining up at the gates of Aso Rock and begging for an audience. We would be granted a Permanent Seat in the UN Security Council, something we have been begging for in the last quarter of a century. BRICS will come running and offer to amend its name to BRINCS but we will keep them at arm’s length. What is our own with their common currency, when the naira is rubbing shoulders with the dollar, the Indian rupee and the Chinese renminbi?

What is African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank or even World Bank and IMF? They will be borrowing from us. The question of “foreign debt” and “low foreign reserves” that bedevil us today will not arise. People all over Africa and beyond will struggle to change their local currencies into Naira, with a capital N, and hoard it in their homes the way Nigerians are hoarding dollars today. Oyinbos will do a reverse Japa to Nigeria. Look, the G7 group of the world’s richest and most powerful nations will come and plead with us to join. We will dictate the terms; we will not agree to a name change of G8 or G7+1, as they did to Russia. We will demand a name change to African Giant + 5 Whites + 2 Yellows, i.e. China and India.

You know why this Goldman Sachs projection pleases me no end? One day in the 1990s, the late ABU lecturer Dr. Sabo Bako and I were standing on  a hotel balcony in Paris, watching the glitz, the bright lights, the old architectural wonders and the endless flow of traffic. I turned and asked Dr. Sabo, “When do you think our country will attain this level?” He snapped, “Why are you asking about when we will get there when we are not even going in that direction?”

Since that pessimistic assessment, it looks like we, as a country and people, have made a sharp U-turn and are not hurtling down the road in the correct direction, thanks to this discovery by Goldman Sachs. Their discovery is as momentous as Mungo Park’s “discovery” of the River Niger in 1795 AD. Maybe even more momentous than Henry the Navigator’s “discovery” of Africa, seven million years  after the first humans evolved here and some of them wandered away to Asia and Europe and gave birth to his ancestors.

Anyway, I could not help but wonder: what gave rise to this great turn-around for our country, from what Dr. Sabo once said was going in the wrong direction? According to Goldman Sachs, “Nigeria’s growth is expected to be driven by its large and young population, potential in agricultural and energy sectors, and emerging technology sectors.” This explanation gave me a pause. Young population? The same one that President Buhari once described as lazy? When there was an uproar, he tired to correct it. I think he chose the term indolent instead.

 I don’t want some Nigerian parents to get the impression from this Goldman Sachs report that all it takes for a nation to become great is the number of young people that it has. Right now, too many Nigerian parents think only about the recreational aspect of child bearing. They hardly think about the housing needs, sanitation, physical safety, food bills, hospital bills, school fees, recreational facilities and the intense cultural guidance and investment that are needed to bring up a child. Too many parents just “born throway,” according to Dame Patience Jonathan. With an estimated 20 million out-of-school children, a number that has risen non-stop since 1976 when we launched the Universal, Free, Compulsory Primary Education [UPE], how is your youthful population an asset?

This youthful population needs universal, quality education and skills in order to become an asset, instead of a liability. Even after dealing with the out-of-school children, there is the small matter of poorly-trained and motivated teachers, of the type Kaduna State Government threw out some years ago and it caused an uproar. Then there is the matter of ASUU strikes. Of the three countries that experienced the greatest economic miracles in the 20th and early 21st centuries, namely Japan, Germany and China, I did not read about their universities closing for a cumulative 4 years in two decades due to lecturers’ strikes, but we may be the first.

“The potential in agricultural and energy sectors” that Goldman Sachs talked about almost made me to yawn. Which? When, after all these decades, our agriculture is still in the hands of subsistence peasant farmers, who very industriously till the land but obtain very little produce due to lack of knowledge and modern tools? An Agriculture Minister once said that there are more tractors in India’s Punjab State than in the whole of Nigeria. Is that the kind of agriculture that factored into Goldman’s calculation, one that cannot feed us now that we are only 200 million, and we don’t know what will happen in 2050 when our population is projected to hit 400 million?

Where did Goldman Sachs get the impression that Nigeria’s energy sector is an explosive growth area? When we are still talking about Band A tariffs? Two years ago, someone dug up an old copy of Newswatch magazine from the late 1980s, when key government officials were talking about surpassing 3,000 MW in power generation. Thirty five years, billions of dollars, a dozen ministers, many reforms and many privatisations later, the sector is still stuck around that level. At that rate of growth, we will be lucky to have 10,000 megawatts in 2075; can that power a $13 trillion economy?

Our economy breathing down the neck of America’s in 2075? Without Silicon Valley, Great Lakes industrial region, Wall Street, the highly productive prairies and Texas cattle ranches, Kennedy Space Center, 15,000 airports, 360 seaports, 4,000 universities including five of the world’s top ten, 1,279 daily newspapers and 1,758 TV stations? Never mind; we have 51 years from now to surpass those numbers.

What Goldman Sachs said about the potentials of some of our rival countries appeared to me to be more realistic. With respect to Egypt, for example, it said its future growth will be powered by its “strategic location, growing service sector and government reforms in infrastructure and energy.” Something like strategic location, there is obviously nothing we can do about it now. You either have strategic location or you don’t have. We can however do something about infrastructure, hopefully beginning with the $11 billion Lagos-Calabar highway.

As for South Africa, the projection is that it will bank on its “rich natural resources, developed financial and legal systems and regional influence.” Goldman Sachs, are you saying because we have no gold and coal like South Africa, buffalo and zebra herds roaming our plains or even Great White Sharks and orcas swimming off our coast, we don’t have “rich natural resources”? You mean our financial system is not developed, even after CBN jerked up banks’ capital to half a trillion naira?  

Anyway, one good thing about the Goldman Sachs projection is that few, if anyone, who read it in the newspapers today, will be around in 2075 to know if indeed it was realized. Afterall, Nigeria has missed every kind of growth target in the last 40 years, from Health for All by the Year 2000 to Vision 2010, Vision 2020, Millenium Development Goals 2015 to Sustainable Development Goals 2025. My only hope is that if, by 2075, Nigeria’s tech-savvy youths succeed in establishing an internet link between this world and the Hereafter, they should kindly send us an email and let us know if the target has been achieved.

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