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    HomeGovernance, Policy & Regulations ForumEconomic Upset: Cameroon, Mauritania Outperform Oil-Rich Nigeria in Wealth per Person

    Economic Upset: Cameroon, Mauritania Outperform Oil-Rich Nigeria in Wealth per Person

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    In an unexpected turn of events, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revealed that Cameroon and Mauritania, two nations with significantly fewer natural resources than oil-rich Nigeria, have surpassed the West African giant in GDP per capita for 2023. This means that, on average, citizens of Cameroon and Mauritania are now wealthier than their Nigerian counterparts.

    This startling revelation comes from the Center for Study and Reflection on the Francophone World (CERMF), which analyzed the IMF’s latest semi-annual data. According to their findings, Cameroon boasts a GDP per capita of $1,710, while Mauritania’s stands at $2,380. In contrast, Nigeria lags behind with a GDP per capita of $1,690.

    This isn’t the first time Nigeria has been outpaced by its neighbors. Côte d’Ivoire surpassed it in 2020, and in 2021, it was Mauritania’s turn to take the lead. However, the addition of Cameroon to this list further underscores the economic challenges faced by Africa’s largest oil producer.

    According to this think tank led by Ilyes Zouari, “this development is a rather impressive performance, given the meager non-renewable natural resources of Senegal and Cameroon compared to those of Nigeria, Africa’s leading oil producer and third for natural gas. Indeed, and as an example, Cameroon extracted an average of 20 times less oil during the decade 2014-2023 (and almost 23 times less in 2023, with a production of only about 54,000 barrels per day, compared to just over 1.2 million), while Senegal had no production in this area. The latter thus achieved the feat of surpassing Nigeria before even starting to produce a single drop or cubic meter of hydrocarbons, the extraction of which has just begun.”

    The CERMF attributes Cameroon and Mauritania’s success to two primary factors: economic diversification and improved governance. While Nigeria relies heavily on oil exports, which account for 90% of its total exports, Cameroon has diversified its economy. Oil and gas only make up 51.7% of Cameroon’s exports, leaving room for other sectors to contribute to its wealth.

    Furthermore, Cameroon has made significant strides in governance and improving its business environment, according to various international financial institutions. In contrast, Nigeria continues to grapple with high levels of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, inflation, and insecurity.

    The stark differences in corruption perception are evident in Transparency International’s 2024 Corruption Perception Index. Nigeria ranks a dismal 145th globally, among the most corrupt nations in Africa. Meanwhile, Senegal, another West African nation, ranks 70th, showcasing its commitment to good governance.

    Cameroon, while not as high as Senegal, has also made improvements in its corruption perception ranking, climbing two spots to 140th in 2023. This suggests a positive trajectory in tackling corruption and improving the business climate.

    Nigeria’s economic woes are further compounded by the devaluation of its currency, the naira, which has plummeted by 40% at the start of the year. This depreciation reflects the country’s persistent economic difficulties.

    “In 2024, Senegal and Cameroon should (…) widen the gap with Nigeria, thanks to their economic dynamism. A gap that will also be accentuated by the new collapse of the naira’s value (40% at the beginning of the year following yet another devaluation of this currency), reflecting the country’s economic difficulties,” anticipates CERMF, which notes that as of June 21, 2024, the naira was worth 2,282 times less against the US dollar than when it was created in early 1973.

    This unexpected turn of events serves as a stark reminder that natural resource wealth alone does not guarantee economic prosperity. It highlights the importance of economic diversification, good governance, and a conducive business environment for sustainable economic growth.

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