Let’s all Move to Nigeria. Or Not.

Hands up every South African who wants to go and live in Nigeria? Didn’t think so. 

Of course it is significant, symbolic and shocking that we are no longer the African lion, king of the jungle, top dog, Numero Uno.

The Nigerians have knocked us off our perch, are now 60% larger than us in terms of some economic measure or other, and there is already talk that they should start shoving us aside in organisations like the BRICS and the G20.

But let us take a step back – even if, arguably, we just have.

This reweighted Nigerian economy is one which is heavily oil-oriented.   Take away the oil, and Nigeria tumbles down the ranking.

Yes, it has lots of people, far more than South Africa, but as Nedbank’s Chief Economist Dennis Dykes explained on the radio the other day, the larger Nigerian economy means that in terms of GDP per head, they are still behind SA.  They may be richer, but if you are about to be born, and are reading this for some reason neither of us will quite understand, head for Jo’burg not Lagos.

And while economic measures are of some use, there are other reasons for liking or not liking a country.   Nigeria is one of the nations which has recently taken a backward step in terms of gay rights, has massive religious tensions which result in frequent massacres, has an unstable power supply (yes, even worse than South Africa’s!) and you really don’t want to get stuck in their traffic jams or airport queues.

I have a friend who was posted there for a while, and spoke of serious security concerns. You may not be 100% safe in Johannesburg, but Lagos is probably worse, particularly if you are a top executive or diplomat who might attract a healthy ransom.

So, while I raise my glass of Moet (which apparently sells better in Nigerian Shoprite Checkers supermarkets than it does in South African ones, where the canny consumer will probably opt for the far better Cap Classic option) to the Nigerians, it is with a tinge of irony.

You may be No 1. But we in South Africa know all too well that No 1 can spend quite a lot of time dodging buckets full of No 2.


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