Geographies in Depth

5 facts to know about Africa's powerhouse - Nigeria 

A woman raises the Nigerian flag as she participates in a parade to commemorate Nigeria's 55th Independence Day in Lagos, October 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye - GF10000228741

Nigeria is looked to as a peacekeeping force within the continent. Image: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Kate Whiting
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To the west of the Nigerian capital Abuja, the grey monolith of Zuma Rock towers above the cars on the motorway below.

One of the West African country’s most famous landmarks, Zuma is shrouded with local myths and adorns the 100 naira banknote. But it’s also a metaphor for Nigeria’s solid and lofty economic position on the African continent, nicknamed the “Giant of Africa”.


The country will be in the spotlight in September at the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa, with Jim Ovia – the founder and chairman of Nigeria's largest bank, Zenith, and author of Africa, Rise And Shine – taking his seat as one of the co-chairs.

The nation has its challenges. In February, 39 people died in violence around the elections that saw President Muhammadu Buhari win his second term in office. And the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has destabilized the northeast of the country. But Nigeria is, nonetheless, seen as a peacekeeping force on the continent.

Here are five things about the country today you might not know.

1. ‘Nollywood’ is bigger than Hollywood

Image: PwC

In 2009, UNESCO reported the Nigerian film industry – also known as "Nollywood" – had overtaken Hollywood to become the world's second largest film industry, behind India's Bollywood.

In the following decade, output more than doubled to 2,500 films a year – and the industry is continuing to grow, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It’s estimated to employ more than 1 million people and to generate more than $7 billion for the national economy, accounting for around 1.4% of Nigeria's gross domestic product.

New cinemas are opening and box office revenue is predicted to reach $22 million by 2021.

2. It will have more people than the US by 2050

Image: UN

Nigeria is already the most populous African nation, and will more than double in size to 400 million people by 2050, according to the United Nations.

3. It boasts some of the world’s greatest writers


Nigerian authors have received some of literature's highest accolades, including playwright Wole Soyinka, who became Africa’s first Nobel laureate for literature in 1986.

The late Chinua Achebe’s debut novel, Things Fall Apart, has sold 20 million copies in the six decades since its publication, making the writer famous for challenging European colonialism.

Ben Okri's The Famished Road won the Man Booker Prize in 1991.

Contemporary feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was inspired by reading Things Fall Apart at 10-years-old. Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, was made into a film in 2013.

4. Nigeria is Africa's biggest economy

Image: World Bank

Nigeria's GDP surpassed that of South Africa about a decade ago, according to the World Bank. Last year, Nigeria's economy was valued at $397 billion, while South Africa - once the biggest player on the continent - had a GDP of $366 billion.

Nigeria is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters – and Africa’s biggest oil producer, pumping out around 2 million barrels each day.

Have you read?

5. Its music industry will be worth $73 million in 2021

2018 BET Awards - Show  - Los Angeles, California, U.S., 24/06/2018 - Davido, from Nigeria, accepts the award for Best International Act. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni - HP1EE6P054MOW
Nigerian music stars such as Davido have fans across the globe. Image: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Another of its big exports, Afrobeats, has taken the world by storm, with stars like Davido and Wizkid boasting huge followings.

The music video for Davido’s single, "Fall", has had 139 million views on YouTube.

Music labels are taking note and Sony and Universal have already opened offices in Nigeria. The country's music industry is set to be valued at $73 million by 2021, according to PwC.

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