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Nigeria claims Africa's highest GDP, disputing World Bank's poverty states

4/9/2014, 11:10 a.m.
News headlines worldwide are trumpeting the startling news that Nigeria has now surpassed South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy.
Nigerian protestor in New York

Apr. 7 (GIN) – News headlines worldwide are trumpeting the startling news that Nigeria has now surpassed South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy.

According to newly “rebased” statistics, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product or GDP of $509.9 billion – being the total value of the nation’s goods and services over a period of time – now tops South Africa’s and makes the West African nation’s economy the largest on the continent. Before Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics revised its numbers, the GDP was half that amount.

The impressive new figure is certain to be a key element of President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign next year. Yet the numbers fly in the face of a just-released World Bank finding that lists Nigeria among the world’s extremely poor countries alongside India, China, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nigeria’s presidency slammed the Bank’s report, accusing World Bank President Jim Young Kim of “deliberately distorting the facts to embarrass the Goodluck Jonathan administration.”

Meanwhile, critics in Nigeria swamped social media with rebuttals of the GDP story. Historian Frank Onuoha, writing for SaharaReporters.com, observed with undisguised irony: “We made history by beating the South Africans in the race of becoming Africa's largest economy and the 23rd largest economy in the world. When I read that, I thought "Wow!! Isn't this lovely?"

“We have been told we have more money than five African countries put together. (Yet) of what benefits does it translate to Mama Iyabo who sells Boli and groundnut at Obalende? Does it pay little Iyabo's school fees who falls among the mass of 10.5 million children out of school?

“Does it help Mr. Ibrahim in Bornu whose shop and house has been burnt down by rampaging terrorists - Boko Haram and maybe Fulani herdsmen? Does it guarantee – at least – ten hours non-interrupted electricity for the Mr. Edet in Calabar whose only source of income is his laundry business?”

He summed up: “There is nothing great or spectacular about having a lot of money while over 50 million Nigerian youths remain unemployed and 67 million of the population is below the global poverty mark… (Similarly) South Africa (with a high GDP) has the third highest jobless rate for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 – equivalent to more than 50 per cent of South African youths.

Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey, in an article titled “Nigeria’s GDP, a Grand Illusion,” wrote: “Going by the correlation of reality and perception, it can be said that the GDP is the ultimate illusion and we do ourselves much harm by sticking to it.”