Editor’s Note: June 14, 2019

Can Nigeria lift 100m people out of poverty?

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari believes the country “can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years”. He made the statement during an inauguration speech this week for his second term in office.

The ambition is welcome, as few countries need a step change in poverty reduction more than Nigeria. According to estimates more than 93m of its 190m strong population live in extreme poverty – less than $1.90 a day. This is the most of any country globally.

Changing this in the next decade will, however, take something special. 

Between 2004 and 2010 the economy expanded at an average of 8.32%. In that same period, to the bemusement of many observers, poverty levels increased from 54.7% to 60.9%. With growth of 2.1% expected this year, the prospects for poverty reduction don’t look great.

The problem is not just the level of growth, but its quality. The apparent contradiction reflects a lack of limited structural reform in Nigeria, and across Africa, resulting in a lack ‘inclusive’ or productive growth.

While theoretically possible, it will take nothing short of a revolution in governance in Nigeria to even come close to Buhari’s 100m goal in the coming years. 

Don’t hold your breath.

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