With a population of 170 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and accounts for 50% of West Africa’s population. Its population is made up of about 200 ethnic groups, 500 indigenous languages, and two major religions - Islam and Christianity. The fragmentation of Nigeria’s geographical, ethnic and cultural identity lines is effectively balanced by the country’s federal structure and the strong emphasis of the federal government on representing ethnic and cultural identities by grouping the country into six geopolitical zones.
In addition to its population, it is also the biggest oil exporter in Africa, with the largest natural gas reserves in the continent. Oil accounts for close to 90% of exports and roughly 75% of consolidated budgetary revenues. With these large reserves of human and natural resources, the country is poised to build a prosperous economy. Nonetheless, with its enormous human and natural endowments, poverty and exclusive growth remain a significant challenge for Nigeria.
In 2009, Nigeria defined its economic objective "Vision 20:2020", that is to place the country among the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020. Vision 20:2020 is an articulation of the long-term goal to launch Nigeria onto a path of sustained social and economic progress and accelerate the emergence of a truly prosperous and united country. The target for year 2020 was based on a dynamic comparative analysis of the country’s potential growth rate and economic structure vis-à-vis those of other top 40 economies in the world. This implies that the Nigerian economy must grow at an average of 13.5% from 2010 to 2020, and the agricultural, industrial and services sectors are expected to drive the growth.
The country has made significant progress. It has maintained an average growth rate of 6.5% – 7.5% over the past decade. This growth rate is higher than the West African sub-regional level and far higher than the sub-Saharan Africa level. The country now boasts of the largest economy in Africa, with an estimated nominal GDP of USD 510 billion, surpassing South Africa’s USD 352 billion.
Nigeria has prospects of strong economic growth, however, challenges that hinder the country’s economic development still remain. Risks to Nigeria’s economic growth include the prevalent poverty and unemployment level in the country. The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank estimate that over 40% of its 175 million people live below the poverty level; about 50% of its labor force is underemployed while 40% of its youth remain unemployed.
The country faces the challenge of slow industrialization due to poor infrastructure, access to energy and finance, insecurity, weak policies and institutional framework.
In recognition of the challenges and the contribution of industrialization to equitable growth, the UNIDO Regional Office in Nigeria has signed a framework to cooperate with the Government of Nigeria to develop and promote programs/projects that drive inclusive and sustainable industrial development.