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South Africa vs Nigeria economies: young people speak out

by Ruth Aine - 10 April 2014

NairaThe press has been awash with reports of Nigeria rebasing its economy, which resulted in  Nigeria now having the biggest economy on the continent. What is even more interesting is that it has trampled South Africa from the position.

I took the liberty to ask youth from both South Africa and Nigeria what this meant to them and the future.


Philile Nzimande from South Africa was very hurt. It was hard to hide her emotions.

“As a young South African this news is shattering, and brings up a lot in question. And now that we will be heading to the election polls soon it makes me question how government will put us back on the spot. Because it is highly obvious that corruption and lack of service delivery have damped our economy. They need to act now!!”

The Nigerians, on the other hand, should be throwing around champagne to celebrate their achievement. Whether it is worth celebrating though, is something that they are not talking about. The concern is elsewhere. According to Cheta Nwanze, a young Nigerian, it does not mean much. “My immediate circumstances have not improved greatly; life is still the same grim struggle to make ends meet. Power, which will be a game changer, is still a huge problem. So, aside from the feel-good factor, which lasted for all of 4 minutes 19 seconds, it hasn't changed anything.”

What do the youth know about the economy, one may ask? Is it something that they lose sleep over? From the reactions received: YES. The African youth demographic is one that everyone is talking about. Some believe that that is the sole reason to invest in Africa. Others think that Africa, being a very young continent, makes it rich resource-wise. Entrepreneurship though is one of those things reported to be the answer to the continent’s huge youth bulge.

Nwanze says that he loses sleep over the state of his economy and for good reasons. “I am an entrepreneur. The cost of doing business has been going up for a while, still going up. As these costs rise, one has to lay a few people off to balance the books. It's a nightmare.” Another young person who preferred to keep his anonymity says: “The state of the economy is the only thing I lose sleep over - all my sleep-deterrents are connected to the economy. Consider for example the violent insurgency in Nigeria, experts link the violence to the low standard of living and illiteracy in Nigeria, especially in the North East. When you keep in mind that Nigeria has a humongous out-of-school population and, as UNDP has recently highlighted, we have the highest absolute numbers of extremely poor people in Africa, you then begin to wonder who exactly has the 80.3 trillion Naira GDP? With that amount of money, the state must begin to make serious investments in social welfare and services, especially in education and health. We should check, for example, how much others such as South Africa, spend on education and health.”

Nigeria justifies the rebasing of their economy as something that they should have done a long time ago. Statistician General of the Federation, Dr. Yemi Kale says that it was a process that was more than 20 years overdue. Some people are advising South Africa to do the same: rebase its economy. But will that solve anything? According to Phililie, South Africa had it coming.

“Switch on the news and you'll see how dominant our government has been in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. For too long, we have taken our leading economic position on the continent for granted. For the past years Nigeria’s outpaced sluggish growth expanded by an average of 7% a year, compared with South Africa’s meager 3% average. It might be good to have a newcomer that threatens to change the traditional route for foreign direct investment into Africa. Perhaps this will make South Africans work as hard as we are capable to do, to get back on the first spot and not trail behind.“

And so I ask: what does the rebasing of the economy mean for Nigeria’s future? Is there hope? One opinion sums it all up: “We can pose three hypothetically scenarios for the short/mid-term:

a) The civil society in Nigeria will shrink and we will see less citizen mobilization and engagement for social causes, especially for the promotion of rights and good governance;

b) We will see less funding opportunities, especially international scholarships for education and career development – this affects youths squarely. There are some scholarship opportunities that will never reach those millions who are known to be extremely poor, because the GDP per capita index now says officially that we are not all that poor;

c) There would be increased pressure against corruption and intolerance. I think more citizens will understand and appreciate the gulf between the “haves” (who are few) and the “have nots” (who are a legion). They would then be less tolerant of bad government and keep closer looks on how they are governed.


Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.




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