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NES29: Pathways to Sustainable Economic Transformation and Inclusion

Abuja will play host to government officials, policymakers, and captains of industries within and outside Nigeria and officials of development finance institutions among others at this year’s 29th Nigerian Economic Summit, an annual programme by the nation’s leading think tank – the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) which will take place today and tomorrow.

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This year’s event is unique, as it will serve as a platform to deliberate on topical issues that hurt economic transformation and inclusion.

With a theme, “Pathways to Sustainable Economic Transformation and Inclusion,” NESG will be positioning itself as a platform in the middle of the current global discourse wherein many developing and emerging economies have attempted to break the shackles of underdevelopment and poverty.

The two-day national programme will deliberate on stimulating growth, mobilising finance for sustainable development, harnessing human capital, reforming public institutions, as well as promoting national cohesion and inclusion.

Nigeria’s socio-economic indicators have not been impressive in the last few years. Despite the many promises and attempts made by the national government, economic growth remains subdued at 3.2 percent as of the end of the second quarter of 2023.

Headline and food inflation continue to rise, hitting 26.72 percent and 30.64 percent in September 2023 respectively. In addition, on account of revenue shortages, public debt continues to rise, reaching a new high recently at N87.38 trillion in June 2023.

Nigerians are growing poorer at an alarming rate as the steady decline in average incomes or GDP per capita (calculated by dividing total economic output by population) since 2015 shows.

Shrinking GDP per capita means the economy is not growing fast enough to create economic opportunities like jobs for its people and that is a recipe for poverty.

The country’s GDP per capita declined by 0.02 percent, 4.16 percent, and 1.78 percent in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, it declined by 0.68 percent, 0.38 percent, and 4.57 percent. In 2022, it increased to 1.2, according to the most recent data from the World Bank.

In 2018, the Brookings Institution published a report that said Nigeria had beaten India to become the poverty capital of the world, with 105 million people living below the poverty line.

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The number increased by 60.4 percent when the National Bureau of Statistics put the number of Nigerians living in multi-dimensional poverty at 133 percent in 2022, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.

Added to the declining capital importation and a fast-depreciating naira to other international currencies, Nigeria’s path to economic transformation and inclusion is laced with many hurdles.

“One of Nigeria’s pressing concerns is the need to translate economic growth into improved living standards for all its citizens,” Olaniyi Yusuf, chairman of the NESG board, said during the pre-29th summit press briefing.

“Despite experiencing growth, the country grapples with rising unemployment, income disparity, and multidimensional poverty,” he added.

According to him, the challenges are worsened by an uneven allocation of resources, macroeconomic instability, and institutional deficiencies.

“Nigeria’s path to progress lies in optimising resources, fostering innovation, and enhancing skills. By attracting investments in infrastructure, education, and healthcare, the nation can drive growth, create jobs, and ensure sustainability,” he stated.

Notwithstanding the above, Nigeria as a country holds bright prospects. Its ever-vibrant youthful population is seen as a great asset if well harnessed and should spur accelerated development.

However, Foreign Direct Investments to keep the population productive have been on the decline. On the bright side, portfolio investors are upbeat.

The dollar is also scarce in the economy with the naira exchanging at N790.68/$ at the I&E window but above N1,000/$ in the black market. However, it is a boost for investors who can leverage the weak local currency to improve their positions when investing locally.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) projects an average of 3.3 percent real GDP growth in 2023-2024 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a 3.2 percent economic growth in 2023, while the World Bank recently lowered its projection for the country to 2.9 percent.

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According to the NESG, the prospect of positive change is through collective efforts. The country’s leading think-tank noted that technological advancement and their increasing adoption offer Nigeria a glimpse of what can be achieved with proper reforms.

The change in political leadership also brings the opportunity for fresh ideas and the rectification of economic policies that have weakened the fiscal system, NESG said.

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