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The myth of Nigeria’s import-dependency

There are many myths in circulation concerning the nature Nigeria’s economy. One is that it is highly import-dependent. The common assumption is that Nigerians are more reliant than other nationalities on the consumption of imported goods. The truth of this may seem obvious to nationalists who believe that it is unhealthy for people to prefer exotic products over local products. But the assumption is simply not true. Merchandise imports as a percentage of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015 was only 7%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics latest trade data. This rate indicates a nation that has far lower usage of foreign goods than most comparable economies in the world.

The reality is that Nigeria is one of the least import-dependent nations in the world and its low level of international trade is probably a major factor in its economic under-development. According to World Bank’s data imports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP in Nigeria was 12.5% in 2014. This was the lowest of all countries recorded in the table and compared with a ratio of 30.3% for Britain, 33.1% for South Africa, 18.9% for China and 25.5% for India. With imports equivalent to only an eighth of domestic output it is absurd to describe Nigerians reliant on imported goods. Countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Togo, where the value of imports is greater than GDP, may be categorised as highly import dependent, but not a nation where imports is a fraction of GDP. Of course, it may be argued that World Bank data do not fully capture high levels of smuggling into Nigeria. But even if the 12.5% import-to-GDP estimate was doubled to account for smuggling the result would still not make the country is extraordinarily import-dependent.