2 million Nigerians would have fallen into poverty in 2020 without COVID-19 – Okonjo-Iweala

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The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says two million more Nigerians would have fallen below the poverty line even if the COVID-19 pandemic had not hit the world and the country.

Quoting statistics released by the World Bank, the WTO DG spoke on Tuesday when she met captains of industry on her first official visit to Nigeria since assuming her new role on March 1.

Okonjo-Iweala recalled that before COVID-19 hit the global economy, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2018 and 2019 was around two per cent with population growth at around 2.5 per cent.

She further said Nigeria’s economy was at a critical juncture, adding that insufficient structural change had made Nigeria more vulnerable to shocks from the fall in oil prices five years ago.

This, she explained, was coupled with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the looming transition to a low carbon global economy implied more changes ahead, hence careful economic planning and managment will be vital.

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Okonjo-Iweala said Nigeria and WTO could help support the process of change because economic growth had been sluggish since 2016 when fallen oil prices pushed Nigeria’s economy to reccession.

“The World Bank estimates that even without the pandemic two million Nigerians would have fallen into poverty in 2020; the pandemic-induced recession is likely to have pushed an additional five million NIgerians into poverty in 2020.

“Nigeria’s economy shrinked by 2.2 per cent in 2020 and will only recover to 1.5 per cent growth in 2021 according to IMF data.

“With the domestic market of over 200 million people accounting to close to Africa’s economics outlook Nigeria has the potential to be an engine of investment, innovation and job creation in West Africa,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala further said that in 2019 Nigeria accounted for 0.3 per cent of global merchandise trade according to WTO data.

She stated that though the seventh most populous country in the world ranked 48th in the mechandise export and 84th for export of commercial services like cargo, transport and business, among others.

The former finance minister noted that Nigeria’s trade with other African countries made up of 19 per cent of intra-African trade in 2019, roughly in line with the country share in continental.

This, Okonjo-Iweala said, indicated that only 6.5 per cent of Nigeria’s import came from elsewhere in Africa.

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