On Monday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) let the public into its summary of Nigeria’s economic performance in the months of July, August and September- the third quarter (Q3) of 2016. Its assessment, grim as it was, didn’t shock most observers- the oil sector shrank by a monumental 22% points, casting a dark shadow over the economic landscape. On the whole, producers still reeled from the shock waves triggered by falling oil prices; manufacturers struggle to get the foreign exchange they need to buy inputs from beyond the country’s borders.
Nigeria depends on oil exports for most of its foreign exchange, and lower oil prices have led to a shortage of foreign currency. But beyond the basic information that Nigeria’s economy contracted by 2.24% in real terms (year-on-year), not much has been said about the silver lining in the figures released by the NBS. The oil sector’s continued decline seems to have sapped the fuel out of the growth engines of many sectors, but a few pockets of resistance have thus far held off the onslaught of negative growth trends. While the oil sector is beaten back by the storms of a hostile international market environment, agriculture, information and communication have become bigger players in the Nigerian economic space than they were before the recession. Perhaps the recession would have been more severe if these sectors hadn’t stood as firmly as they have.
The NBS reports that, compared to the third quarter of the previous year, the agricultural sector grew by 7.37%. Crop production, livestock, forestry and fishery contributed 24.09% of Nigeria’s GDP for the months of July, August and September taken together. The information and communication sector (comprising telecoms and information services, publishing, broadcasting, as well as motion picture and music production), and the arts and entertainment sector also grew, albeit by less eye-catching margins of 1.11% and 1.99% respectively.
The sustained growth of the agricultural sector has been attributed to government and private sector driven efforts to boost the sector’s output. Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, has praised Nigerians for seizing the opportunity presented by the present economic situation to go back to the farms. “We have never seen such a response to a national call- to return to agriculture”, he said.