Does Nigeria import too much?
Import dependence. Source: Shutterstock

There are not many issues on which you would find many Nigerians in agreement.

There are even fewer that electoral candidates know they can always use to score cheap political points.

Key takeaways:

  1. The value of Nigeria’s imports has more than tripled between 2015 and 2021—a seven-year period! More startling, Nigeria’s imports in the first quarter of 2021 (₦5.9 trillion) were almost as large as imports for the entire 2015 (₦6.7 trillion).

  2. When we account for inflation, the exchange rate and our population, imports still grow. When we also account for exports, imports are higher and grow faster than exports. In 2015, imports were just 70% of the value of exports; by 2021, imports were larger than exports (110%). 

  3. However, relative to her African peers, Nigeria is not a particularly prolific importer. We trail South Africa and Egypt while dominating Kenya, Ghana, and Angola. Looking beyond the continent, unsurprisingly, Nigeria’s imports pale compared to the BRIC countries.

But it is a truth universally accepted by Nigerians that we import too much. We are import-dependent. We love foreign goods.

I jest.

But so do proponents of this obstinate idea. In 2019, Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture at the time, caused a stir when he accused Nigerians of importing pizza from the United Kingdom. Speaking at a Senate committee on agriculture, the Minister explained, “Do you know, sir, that there are Nigerians who use their cellphones to import pizza from London; they buy in London and bring it on British Airways in the morning to pick up at the airport. It is a very annoying situation, and we have to move a lot faster in cutting down some of these things.”

If importing pizza doesn’t scream import dependence, I don’t know what does.

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Michael Famoroti

Michael Famoroti

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