VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — Nigeria has emerged as Africa’s largest economy. The country has also become well-known for its culturally rich music and film industries. Nigeria is also aiding in the ending of civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria’s successes and leadership are being noticed by other countries, leading many to question whether or not these are signs of a rising leader for Africa.
Not long ago, South Africa was considered Africa’s superpower. It had the largest economy on the continent, was the only G20 member from Africa and had a potential permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. However, with Nigeria’s economy increasing by 89 percent in the past year, it has surpassed South Africa. Nigeria is also the most populous African nation.
Can Nigeria hold up to its expectations as Africa’s rising leader? Its ability to become a leader is questioned by many due to its instability. The high levels of poverty, unstructured economy, government corruption and the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping, make the country appear as if it is experiencing too many issues to set an example for others.
Elnathan John, a Nigerian citizen, believes that Nigeria’s reputation as the “largest economy in Africa” is misleading. He states, “Much of this growth has had nothing to do with government planning, policy, or promotion, save for new billionaires whose rapidly acquired wealth flows from government contracts, monopolies and unfair business practices.When private business flourishes, it does so in spite of Nigeria’s infrastructure-and political and social systems-being dysfunctional.”
Despite its current hiccups, the country still has potential. In 2008, when Dora Akunyili became the new head of the Nigerian Agency for Food and Drug control, counterfeit drug products that once controlled Nigerian markets were eliminated. With the hope of corruption levels decreasing, Ronak Gopaldas, a risk analyst, believes that Nigeria will continue its reformation in the government and banking sectors. He believes that the country’s future success lies in the growth of its agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
Jim Neil, a business guru, added Nigeria to the MINT club, a list of emerging powerhouses in the world. Nigeria is expected to go from having the 39th largest GDP in 2014, to the 13th largest by the year 2050.
Nigeria also has the most “soft power” (defined as the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcome you want) of any African country. The country’s influence is exported via its film and music industries. Nollywood, Nigerian cinema, currently makes up about 1.4 percent of GDP; Nigerian music can be heard all throughout Africa.
Nicole Amarteifio, creator of a web series “African City” and citizen of Ghana, does not believe that Africa should depend on one country for leadership. She states, “As soon as you expect one country to lead the entire continent, it is as if the other countries, numbering more than 50, are absolved of all responsibility….It is like a relay race, where the team is only as strong as its weakest runner. In the same way, the African continent is only as strong as its weakest country.”
Is it necessary to fix Nigeria’s issues before declaring its leadership, or would declaring the country a leader among Africa be a start to solving their problems? Chibundu Onuzo, a Nigerian writer, believes giving Nigeria the leadership role would help turn the country around. He states, “One can only imagine the wonders that would take place if Nigeria’s abundant wealth was paired with visionary leadership.”
– Courtney Prentice