Let’s examine Nigeria: Increased oil exports coming out of the Niger Delta have facilitated rapid economic growth – in 2013, GDP peaked at an all-time high: $522.64 billion, up from $4.2 billion in 1960. This seems like good news, but the economic gains from oil exports are ultimately unsustainable and are not doing much to alleviate poverty.
While at the national level Nigeria is thriving, widespread poverty still persists. A majority of Nigerians are living off of just $1 a day. The gap between the rich and the poor is due to a history of corruption – political leaders withhold much of the oil revenue that comes into the country by maintaining control of the Niger Delta where oil is refined. Corruption investigations have revealed unethical redistribution of oil profits by previous president Obasanjo and party leaders.
Corruption and unequitable distribution are not the only issues of concern within Nigeria’s industry. Dependence on the oil industry for economic growth— the largest source of CO2 emissions globally – is inherently unsustainable. The demand for fossil fuel is expected to rise in the coming decades, and Nigeria should absolutely not continue to invest in the industry when calls for divestment are erupting worldwide. Continuing to exploit the “one-resource curse” that is tearing apart the Niger Delta is unwise.
Fortunately there is another sector of the economy that can provide Nigeria with sustainable economic growth, income equality, and a source of food for the239 million suffering from hunger throughout the continent. Currently, 60% of the African workforce relies wholly on agriculture for income. For these people, increased agricultural production of both cash crops and subsistence crops would greatly increase quality of life: incomes would rise, and the price of food would drop.
Agriculture is the future for African development – and so far the future looks promising.
The international community has shown commitment toward helping African nations develop their agricultural sector, as per the UN Millennium Development Goals. Foreign investment in African agriculture is “projected to grow from less than $10 billion in 2010 to more than $45 billion in 2020,” and agriculture already accounts for a quarter of the Nigerian economy. There is a solid base to sustainably build upon. Additionally, by simply using the land that is already in production more efficiently (practicing crop rotation, for example) yields could be increased by 5-20% depending on the region.
The challenge of establishing a large-scale agriculture business sector in Nigeria lies in the sustainability of its development. It will be a challenge to increase production substantially without resorting to ecologically-harmful industrial farming methods. But with investments from the international community to support sustainable infrastructure, along with the spread of technology and education, Nigeria has hope for social equality and truly sustainable development.
Sarah Miles, Intern