Nigeria on Sunday became Africa’s biggest economy, leap-frogging South Africa, after the government announced a long-overdue rebasing of the country’s gross domestic product.
The new calculations take into account changes in production and consumption since the last time the exercise was carried out in 1990, including an added focus on communications and the movie industry.
The data indicated that the economy grew to $453 billion in 2012, instead of $264 billion as measured by the World Bank for that year.
South Africa’s economy was at $384 billion in 2012, according to the World Bank.
“Nigeria has moved to be the largest economy by GDP size in Africa and has moved to be the 26th largest economy in the world,” finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.
The widely expected results are based on calculations taking into account a range of new sectors and industries that were negligible or non-existent in 1990.
They include the mobile telephones market — Africa’s largest — music and the hugely popular local film industry, Nollywood.
Nollywood, for example, was now worth 853.9 billion naira ($5.1 billion, 3.7 billion euros) or 1.2 percent of GDP.
“It indicates a clearer picture of Nigeria’s economic landscape, and the significant opportunity for growth and wealth creation in the Nigerian economy.”
South African economists pointed out that their country remains the most important economy in the continent despite being overtaken by Nigeria as Africa’s biggest.
“South Africa will remain one of the important economies of the continent, though this rebasing will be a significant step in establishing Nigeria as a true African powerhouse,” said Investec portfolio manager, Roelof Horne.
Economist Dennis Dykes, at South Africa’s Nedbank said Nigeria’s new position as Africa’s largest economy should be “viewed positively”.
“The news figures should help South African investors identify new opportunities in Nigeria, especially in areas that were previously not factored in.”