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TheStreet Open House

Nigeria: Economy $510 billion, biggest in Africa

By MICHELLE FAUL

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) a¿¿ Nigeria's recalculated economy is worth $510 billion, by far the biggest in Africa, officials announced Sunday using long overdue revised data that gives the West African nation continental bragging rights but does little for the 70 percent of its citizens living in poverty.

The new value of Nigeria's GDP adds previously uncounted industries like telecommunications, information technology, music, airlines, burgeoning online retail outlets and Nollywood film production that didn't exist when the last GDP count was made in 1990. Then, there were 300,000 landlines. Today, Nigeria has 100 million cell phone users.

The new figures also will take account of growth in agriculture and tourism that have flourished since democracy was restored in 1999, ending decades of military dictatorship.

With one fell swoop, Nigeria knocked out of the ring South Africa, whose GDP of $353 billion was previously counted the biggest on the continent and which is the only African member of the G20.

"Nigeria's success is a reminder that Africa is moving ahead despite its current challenges," said investment manager Kevin Daly of UK-based Aberdeen Asset Management, which invests in Africa. He pointed out that it is a Nigerian, billionaire Aliko Dangote, who is building Africa's largest privately owned oil refinery.

Investors' attention will be drawn by the fact that while oil remains the biggest source of government revenue, about 80 percent, oil production is declining while Nigeria's agriculture, communications and service sectors are enjoying healthy growth.

Nigeria has been Africa's biggest drawer of direct foreign investment despite myriad woes, from massive corruption and oil thefts costing the country some $20 million a day to an Islamic uprising in the northeast that has killed more than 1,200 people so far this year, to a paralytic electricity supply that keeps businesses dependent on diesel-run generators.

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