Nigeria’s high poverty data is one that we have first, rejected – deemed as untrue, before eventually coming to terms with its sad reality. For a nation with one of the biggest economies of the world, the daunting results speak of a failure that we would rather hide behind the façade of our strong economy or our huge active population.
We, however, couldn’t pretend for long because soon enough, Nigeria overtook India, taking its title of the poverty capital of the world.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, stated that 40% of Nigerians (82.9 million) lived below its poverty line of N137,430 ($381.75) a year.
The Northern states rank poorest with nine of the top 10 poorest states in the country owing largely to the Boko Haram insurgency, massive unemployment rates, low access to healthcare services, and millions of children out of school – all which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the most recent estimates, the World Bank estimates that 40 million to 60 million people will fall into extreme poverty (under $1.90/day) in 2020, compared to 2019, as a result of Covid-19, depending on assumptions on the magnitude of the economic shock. Even though the stats in themselves are bad, they hold many other truths. One of such lies in the purchasing power of the average Nigerian.
Poverty and the purchasing power of Nigerians
The World Bank categorizes poverty into three levels: Those who live on less than $1.90 a day, those who live on less than $3.20 a day, and those who live on less than $5.50 a day. Before now, the international poverty line had been set at a dollar-a-day by the World Development Report of 1990. However, it was updated to provide a more accurate description of the real cost of living in different countries.
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Being the poorest country in Africa, it is safe to say that the average Nigerian, therefore, falls within the category of less than $1.90 a day, less than $3.20 a day, or less than $5.50 a day. In Naira terms, using an exchange rate of N390 to a dollar, it means the average Nigerian either has N741, N1,248, or N2,145 to spend in a day.
These funds cut across expenses on housing, feeding, clothing, communication etc. The 2019 expenditure pattern report – a measure of Nigeria’s spending pattern in both food and non-food items, revealed that 56.65% of the household expenditure in 2019 was spent on food, with the balance of about 43.35 spent on non-food items.
Also, a survey carried out by FinMark Trust in partnership with EFInA, just this month, reveals that Nigerian households are beginning to experience reduced income, lower food consumption, and reduced access to financial and health services following the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic and related lockdowns. Consequently, the low purchasing power is now even lower.
The implication of our purchasing power reveals two core truths:
Industries that do not cover necessities immediately eliminate a huge portion of the populace.
Even businesses that in core industries that are priced above the minimum spending value of the average Nigerian, eliminate millions of potential customers.
More so, these values represent spending spreads. In other words, with N1,248 to spend on pretty much everything, only a smaller percentage will be apportioned to even the most important cost items.
What this means: A business owner with a core product that costs just N1,000, you are already providing a luxury service in the Nigerian context. Items sold under these price points are like recharge cards, sports betting, sachet milk, etc., tend to make solid businesses as a result of their huge share within the spending capacity of most Nigerians.
In truth, the very essence of market segmentation – the division of a broad array of customers into sub groups, is that all businesses cannot cater to all markets.
However, the allure of maintaining low price points could also mean that Nigerians might be getting less value in order to just be able to afford a product. This goes to show the real purchasing power of Nigerians, and it is as instructive as it is worrisome because clearly, our high poverty rate affects every single one of us.