Earlier this month, Newsweek ran a cover story with the headline Black China: Africa’s First Superpower Is Coming Sooner Than You Think. The author compared Nigeria’s position to that of China and India before their economic booms and pointed out similarities. Despite the obvious barriers to success, the writer concludes that he would not bet against it happening.

Two months earlier, at the end of November 2019, the Financial Times hosted a forum of investment experts to discuss Nigeria’s challenges of economic growth, the stock market and security (http://bit.ly/AfricanGrey20200123b) This group were far more downbeat, citing concerns about the fragile economy, looming potential currency devaluation and highlighting that population growth exceeds economic growth.

Whether Nigeria is on the cusp of an economic miracle – overcoming the many obvious challenges and defying its recent history – or whether it continues on its current trajectory remains to be seen. Either way, Nigeria has fundamental issues to address, not least the issue of poverty.

The World Bank defines poverty as those living on US$1.90/day or less and more than half of Nigeria’s population fall into this definition. While poverty in Africa has fallen substantially – from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015 – the number of poor Africans has increased, from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015. The Brookings Institute now lists Nigeria as having more people in extreme poverty than India. It will take a substantial economic miracle to improve the situation.

There are many reasons why poverty alleviation should be at the top of the government’s priorities – it would deliver concrete health, social, education and economic benefits. Consider one example: among poor Nigerians, over 50% of children under the age of five are classified as ‘stunted’ (low height-for-age). This has an impact on later life as studies show that stunted children have impaired cognitive development, delayed school starts, lower test scores, lower educational attainment, and higher class repetition and dropout rates.

Businesses that want their brands to prosper in Nigeria would do well to consider how they could help the poor – through appropriate formats and price points, for example, or via branded promotions linked to nutrition, education and sport. There are abundant opportunities to serve this demographic better – and still turn a profit. It all begins with a deeper understanding of the context of their lives.

We’ve done several studies among Nigeria’s poorest, exploring topics like:

  • Their key priorities
  • How they see themselves emerging into a better life
  • Their coping mechanisms
  • Where and when they shop
  • How they perceive value
  • How they make brand choices

All these studies were fascinating – we encountered wonderfully creative and resilient Nigerians who were optimistic about their futures, despite their circumstances.

Our clients and their brands have benefitted from staying close to this demographic and being more relevant to them. We’d encourage you to do the same.

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