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Nigeria Must Widen Tax Base, Diversify Economy—UBS Report

By Dipo Olowookere

Federal Government has been advised to widen its tax base and broaden its activities away from oil if it must continue to grow its economy.

Also, according to the latest report by UBS Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office, the liberalization of Naira exchange rates will be crucial in attracting foreign investment.

UBS, which today launched Africa: Cradle of Diversity, a new report on the continent’s economic prospects and challenges, highlights that of the 64 nations the IMF projects to have average real GDP growth of more than 4 percent in the next five years, more than half are in Africa.

It said as Africa’s largest country both in terms of GDP and population, Nigeria offers enormous potential for the nation’s domestic market.

The UN expects Nigeria’s population to reach up to 1 billion people by 2100, offering unusual potential for growth. At the same time, population growth presents a significant challenge in terms of job creation for new labour market entrants and the nation’s geographic limitations, considering Nigeria’s territory is approximately the size of Texas.

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In addition, UBS CIO research shows that indicators relating to governance and ease of doing business are clearly weaker than for peers, thus underpinning the need for reforms as foreseen in Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Decisive factors outlined in the report include efforts to broaden the country’s tax base and to diversify its economy. Nigeria’s revenue base heavily relies on oil-related activities, which exposes the nation’s fiscal balance to energy price shocks and volatility risks.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter and while commodity exports remain a major growth driver in many African countries, their importance is slowly declining as domestic demand plays an expanding role in sustaining growth.

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Some of the continent’s fastest growing economies are concentrated in non-resource-rich countries like Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Kenya and Ethiopia, which are expected to grow between 6 percent and 8 percent in the next few years.

The report points out that the manufacturing industry is probably one of the most overlooked sectors in Africa, despite the continent’s potential to become the world’s next low-cost manufacturing hub and a leading global player in resource-intensive manufacturing.

Competitive labour costs, abundance of raw materials, convenient transit locations for export and large markets for local consumption position many African countries well to replace Asian competitors as attractive locations to produce goods and draw manufacturing foreign direct investment.

In the short term, further progress toward the liberalization of the Nigerian currency’s exchange rate will have a decisive impact on the inflow of such investment.

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Ali Janoudi, Head of Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, France and Belgium International at UBS Wealth Management, said: “We see tremendous potential for Nigeria’s economy, which is Africa’s largest, but in order to achieve its potential, current reform programs must be implemented and in some instances, accelerated. The current climate of higher energy prices and relative domestic stability indicate now is the right time to act.”

Michael Bolliger, Head of Emerging Market Asset Allocation at UBS Wealth Management’s CIO, said: “In the near term, oil will remain an important source of income for Nigeria. However, the impressive growth rates of non-resource-rich countries in Africa clearly indicate that development beyond oil is the way forward.”

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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