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Nigeria, Economy

Nigeria’s economy, traditionally based on agriculture and trade, changed profoundly under colonial rule, beginning in the late 19th century. The need to pay taxes to the colonial government forced Nigerian farmers to replace food-producing crops with cash-producing crops, which the government bought at low prices and resold at a profit. In the 1960s and 1970s the petroleum industry developed, prompting greatly increased export earnings and allowing massive investments in industry, agriculture, infrastructure, and social services. Many of these large investments, often joint ventures with private corporations, failed.

In 2000 Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $41 billion. The GDP has varied widely, depending on the oil market: $81 billion in 1985, $33.2 billion in 1994, $40.5 billion in 1995. Although petroleum accounts for as much as 98 percent of export earnings and produces about four-fifths of government revenues, the production of the GDP is divided almost equally between the petroleum, agriculture, and service sectors. In 2000 Nigeria’s gross national product (GNP) per capita was only $260, among the 20 lowest in the world and well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa. In 1990 foreign aid per capita was only $2, far below the average of $33 for sub-Saharan Africa. The poor have been especially hard hit, notably by devaluations of the currency, which make basic imported goods, such as food, more expensive; cutbacks in services and increases in fees for services; and a rate of inflation that exceeded 60 percent in 1996.

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