Nigeria advances but uncertainties abound.

Nigeria's dilemma in remaking its resource rich economy into a cornerstone of globalization is shared by many of the world's developing countries. Markets and consumer participation in the economy require durable networks usually supplied by physical infrastructure: All weather roads, plentiful electricity, clean water, railroads, and ports.

All of this infrastructure is enormously expensive to build and maintain-with one exception, a national cell phone network.

The problem for Nigeria's well-meaning and creative government is that it cannot tap into the full economic power of the country's vast consumer base (131.3-million people, by far the biggest in the Africa Mid-East region) because the government's budget is puny compared to the huge infrastructure need.

Some infrastructure projects have been completed, but nowhere near what is required. Businesses suffer, too, because electric power is inadequate and unreliable, meaning that businesses are forced to generate their own power. Products and services available for export cannot be priced competitively, and investors who might otherwise be attracted to Nigeria's resource base become discouraged.

So the government takes a limited approach, focusing on macroeconomic stability. On July 13, 2006, The Vanguard (Lagos), citing The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as its source, reported that Nigeria's GDP grew an impressive 6.2 percent in 2005.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not quite agree saying (in April 2006) 2005 growth was 6.9 percent. Further, the IMF predicts 2006 growth will be 6.2 percent, and 5.2 percent in 2007.

The risk: Political instability. Because the government cannot move quickly on infrastructure-one of the central drivers of consumer market growth-the government risks losing the support of its population. Life has not changed for the average consumer in spite of the good work the government has been able to do in macroeconomic management.

The solution is not easy or obvious. But a model might be available in a normal marketing program: Pilot test, regional extension, national rollout.


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