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India Has Billionaire Boom But Nigeria Stagnant

India’s economic landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past decade, reflected in its surging billionaire population. A recent Forbes report reveals a staggering 100% growth, bringing India’s total to a remarkable 200 billionaires as of May 2024. This stands in stark contrast to Nigeria, a nation with immense economic potential, which has seen only one additional billionaire emerge during the same period.

India’s billionaire boom can be attributed to several key factors. Robust economic growth across sectors like technology, finance, and manufacturing has created fertile ground for wealth creation. Proactive government policies promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and foreign investment have further fueled this growth. Additionally, India’s vast population of 1.4 billion offers a significant market potential, attracting both domestic and international investors.

While India thrives, Nigeria faces significant hurdles. Political instability and inadequate infrastructure have hampered wealth creation. The business environment is marred by bureaucratic hurdles, inconsistent policies, and a lack of essential infrastructure, deterring potential investors. These factors have stifled economic growth and limited the emergence of new billionaires.

Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, has witnessed a significant devaluation over the past decade. This depreciation has shrunk the dollar-denominated wealth of existing billionaires like Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote Group, who incurred substantial losses last year as his net worth saw a considerable decline following the free float of the Naira. This depreciation has contributed to the decline of other billionaires who previously held positions in the global billionaire wealth rankings.

The devaluation of the Naira commenced after the plummet in oil prices, which began in late 2014 and triggered the initial round of devaluations, causing the Naira to fall from N165/$1 to approximately N187/$1. Subsequently, by 2016, the exchange rate experienced significant volatility, plummeting to approximately N350/$1 and later to N510/$1 before the introduction of the Investor & Exporter window (IEFX) by the apex bank, aimed at stabilizing the exchange rate over the following two years.

The heightened demand for foreign currency, driven by essential expenses such as educational fees, healthcare, and importation costs, has exacerbated the depreciation of the Naira. Moreover, significant foreign currency inflows from non-oil sources like remittances, tourism, and non-oil exports, largely transacted through the informal market, have compounded the issue.

Furthermore, Nigeria’s failure to meet its OPEC oil production quota has significantly influenced the Naira’s valuation, given the centrality of oil in the nation’s foreign exchange earnings. The situation is exacerbated by rampant oil theft, leading to diminished oil revenue.

The weakening Naira has unleashed broad economic repercussions, including heightened import costs, surging inflation rates, reduced purchasing power, and a deterrent effect on investment inflows. By December 2023, inflation had surged to 28.92%, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), showing the inflationary pressures gripping the economy.

India’s wealth surge is further accentuated by comparing the growth in billionaire net worth. India’s 100 billionaires in 2014 were worth a combined wealth of $346 billion, a 175% increase when compared to the current $954 billion for 200 billionaires.

In stark contrast, Nigeria, a country known for its economic potential, has seen minimal growth in its billionaire count over the same period. In 2014, Nigeria boasted 12 individuals on the Forbes list of African billionaires, including prominent figures such as Tony Elumelu, Orji Kalu, and Folorunsho Alakija, worth about £49 billion combined. However, over the decade, this number dwindled to just three, eventually rising to four with Otedola’s re-entry into the list in 2024. This puts Nigeria’s representation on the global billionaire index at a mere four individuals worth $27.9 billion combined.

Besides India’s vast population of 1.4 billion people, additionally, its proactive policies aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and foreign investment have created a conducive environment for wealth creation and accumulation. In contrast, Nigeria has over 200 million people, but its business environment has been marred by bureaucratic hurdles, inconsistent policies, and a lack of adequate infrastructure, deterring potential investors and hindering economic growth.

In retrospect, a 2013 report by Knight Frank shed light on India’s burgeoning billionaire population, estimating it at around 60 individuals with a growth rate of 98%, poised to reach 119 by 2023. However, surpassing initial forecasts, India boasted an impressive 169 billionaires by 2023, signalling a remarkable surge in wealth accumulation within the nation.

Meanwhile, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mexico, and Turkey have collectively dubbed the MINTs, denoting countries with favourable fundamentals poised to catalyze economic growth, particularly owing to their favourable demographics. These nations boasted significant populations characterized by a balance between youth and elderly demographics, providing a conducive environment for rapid economic expansion without necessitating substantial intervention. Projections indicated that Turkey and Mexico would witness a nearly one-third increase in ultra-wealthy individuals, while Nigeria’s count was expected to nearly double, reflecting the anticipated economic dynamism within these nations.

However, a decade later, Nigeria finds itself teetering on the brink of naira devaluation and forex volatility, grappling with economic challenges that have cast a shadow over its once-promising trajectory.

India’s economic trajectory shows no signs of slowing down. With a booming economy and pro-business policies, the number of ultra-wealthy individuals is projected to increase further. However, concerns regarding wealth inequality amidst broader economic growth have emerged.

Nigeria, on the other hand, faces an uphill battle. The future of the Naira and Nigeria’s economic prospects depend heavily on effective monetary and fiscal policies, political stability, and regaining global confidence. Overcoming these challenges is crucial for Nigeria to unlock its true economic potential and witness a surge in its billionaire population.

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