The “giant of Africa” title that Nigeria has paraded for so long has quickly been exposed for what it is: a scam, a fraud, a shoddy wooden bridge over a violent stream. We are forever saying that our greatest strength is our massive population as well as our valuable natural resources, and yet, we have officially been crowned the poverty capital of the world.
The Brookings Institution has released a report with data from the World Poverty Clock, showing that Nigeria now has over 87 million people living in poverty. This means that the country has now overtaken India for the absolute number of people in extreme poverty. This becomes especially embarrassing when we consider the population of India – 1.3 billion, in comparison to Nigeria’s 183 million. This means that almost half (47%) of Nigeria’s population lives in extreme poverty compared to India’s 5% (around 71 million people in India live in extreme poverty).
It makes sense that in Africa, we have the highest absolute number of people living in extreme poverty if we have the largest population – and by a large gap as well. The second most populous country on the continent is Ethiopia, and the gap is that of over 80 million people. However, they still have a significantly lower percentage of people living in extreme poverty – about 27% of their population. The African country with the highest percentage of its population living in extreme poverty is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a whopping 77%. In a way, they are faced with a similar predicament to that of Nigeria’s: rich in natural resources, but faced with a large amount of corruption and political instability, and with ever living remnants of the past, leaving a war-torn present.
However, drawing comparisons between the two countries is a bit of stretch, for a few reasons. First and foremost, DR Congo hasn’t been parading themselves as the giant of Africa. Secondly, it’s far more odd that Nigeria has 47% of their population in extreme poverty when we have a gross domestic product (GDP) of 375 billion USD whereas DR Congo has a GDP of 35 billion USD.
Nigeria is a walking paradox. There may not be a country in the world more difficult to explain, especially in terms of riches and poverty. Citizens and other residents of the country know the various problems the nation faces. They’re complex, deep-rooted, and multifaceted. The problems exist in both the public and the private sector, in part due to the “every man for themselves” culture that has developed in the people. This translates into the behaviour of politicians when put in power as well as the way activities within companies are conducted.
It hasn’t been until recently that corporate-social responsibility has become a prominent topic in Nigeria, and this hasn’t been without prominent calls to action by a few organisations committed to a fair and sustainable practice. And despite this, problems within the country persist and things only seem to be getting worse – in the report, Brookings Institution stated that approximately six Nigerians fall into extreme poverty per minute. This is especially unfortunate for the country as, on a global scale, there are fewer people in poverty now than before, with people escaping poverty at a current rate of 1.1 person per second.
The statistics have been presented to us and they’re not looking good thus far. We have two options – to reject them as some government officials have done – or to face them head on. We have to ask ourselves now: what is our hope?
World Bank (2018). Poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day (2011 PPP) (% of population) https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.DDAY
World Bank (2018). GDP (current US$) https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD
Brookings Institution (2018). The start of a new poverty narrative. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2018/06/19/the-start-of-a-new-poverty-narrative/
Oracle News NG (2018). FG rejects World Poverty Clock report on Nigeria. https://oraclenews.ng/fg-rejects-world-poverty-clock-report-on-nigeria/